Trump announced the decision in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday, saying his administration would review the group’s “role in mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus” amid criticism that it downplayed China’s efforts to conceal information about the early spread of the virus.
But with the globe approaching 2 million cases of the virus, some leaders weren’t pleased with the decision.
“Now is a time for unity in the global battle to push the COVID-19 pandemic into reverse, not a time to cut the resources of the World Health Organization, which is spearheading and coordinating the global body’s efforts,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Tuesday.
The European Union’s top diplomat tweeted that he “deeply regrets” the move.
“There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain & mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Only by joining forces we can overcome this crisis that knows no borders,” the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a tweet.
China, which Trump accused of providing WHO with false information about the virus, also jumped to the defense of the organization.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters the move would “weaken WHO’s abilities and undermine global cooperation on combating the pandemic.”
“It will affect all countries in the world, including the United States – especially those with vulnerable abilities,” he said. “We urge the U.S. to fulfill its responsibilities and obligations, and support WHO to lead the international combat against the pandemic.”
Bill Gates, who – with his wife – is the second-largest donor to the organization through their foundation, said the world needs WHO “now more than ever.”
“Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them,” Gates tweeted.
The U.S. is the largest contributor to WHO, providing nearly 15% of its funds, according to its website.
Also on Tuesday, Trump said he would soon announce guidelines for reopening the country’s economy. The Washington Post reported that the plan will offer advice for local and state governments to reopen in phases.
Facilities that care for children would be the first priority, according to The Post. Reopenings that depend on local situations would only happen after a communication campaign and community assessment as well as an increase in the production of testing kits and protective equipment.
Reopenings would not happen before May 1, according to the plan.