US President Donald Trump said his treatment of the coronavirus pandemic has broken relations with the World Health Organization as the death toll from the disease has spiked again in the United States and Brazil.
Trump’s decision marks an end to hundreds of millions of dollars in support for the UN agency right as it needs it most, with outbreaks in other areas of the world yet to peak.
Countries in Latin America are bracing for difficult weeks ahead, particularly Brazil, where on Friday the death toll shot up by 1.124 and a record number of new infections occurred.
Trump initially suspended funding to the WHO last month, accusing it of not doing enough to curb the virus’ early spread and being too gentle on China, where the virus emerged late last year.
He made that decision on Friday permanent in a big blow to the finances of the department, as the United States is by far the largest donor, pouring in last year’s $400 million.
“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization,” Trump told reporters.
The Republican leader said the US would be redirecting WHO funds “to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”
“The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency,” Trump said.
Beijing has angrily refuted US claims that after it was found in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December it played down or even covered up the threat from the virus, insisting it was forthcoming.
Since then the pandemic has claimed nearly 364,000 lives worldwide and the number of cases is up to six million.