David is self-isolating in Auckland under New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown. You can read his complete article here. https://asiapacificreport.nz/2020/04/16/how-the-chief-covidiot-has-blocked-world-health-unity-with-who-freeze/
AUCKLAND - Donald Trump’s sabre-rattling freeze on funding for the World Health Organisation at a time when many countries are pulling together for a global response to the coronavirus pandemic has surely earned him the epithet of the “world’s chief covidiot”.
The US President’s efforts at deflecting the blame for his country’s national public health crisis by pointing the finger at WHO and announcing that Washington would pull funding as the largest donor has shocked the world, triggering widespread condemnation from leaders and public health experts.
The impact of this shock decision is bound to be felt in the Pacific region with some countries and territories clinging precariously to their Covid-19-free status, while others – such as the US territory Guam, New Caledonia and French Polynesia – have already become hotspots.
American funding to WHO provided more than 15% of the international body’s 2018-19 budget of $4.4 billion.
While Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, denounced Trump’s decision as “a crime against humanity” and an “appalling betrayal” of every scientist, health worker and citizen – and of global solidarity, the second largest WHO donor, Microsoft’s Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation, described the move “as dangerous as it sounds”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says it is “not the time” to cut funding or to question errors.
“Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis,” he said.
Trump ordered the blocking of funds pending a three-month review of WHO’s role in allegedly “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”.
The president claimed that the pandemic could have been contained “with very little death” if the UN agency had accurately assessed the situation in China, where the virus outbreak began in the city of Wuhan late last year. He accused of WHO of having put too much faith in Beijing.
However, the US president had in the early stages regularly downplayed the dangers of this virus that has killed more than 128,000 people and infected more than 2 million worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
He had declared it was all “under control” and as late as March 27 praised President Xi Jinping for China’s handling of the crisis. According to Politico, he tweeted or addressed rallies 15 times in praise of China.
The US has now become the hardest hit country with the highest death toll of more than 30,000 and 650,000 confirmed cases.
Ironically, the Johns Hopkins University figures – regarded as the most reliable – have been criticised for obscuring the degree of impact in the US by breaking up US death toll figures into individual state tallies.
The warning signs are there for countries such as Papua New Guinea which has already drawn alarm signals from Human Rights Watch, saying that a serious outbreak there would be “a catastrophe”.
(Just two “cases” so far, one a foreign mineworker who was repatriated back to Australia and the other a woman in East New Britain who turned out to be a false alarm after a provincial lockdown).
“Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the fragile health system in Papua New Guinea was underfunded and overwhelmed, with high rates of malaria, tuberculosis, and diabetes among its population of more than eight million,” wrote an HRW associate director, Georgie Bright.
“Access to hospitals is extremely limited, with 80 percent of the population living outside urban centres.
Prime Minister James Marape has acknowledged the country has only 500 doctors, less than 4,000 nurses, and around 5,000 beds in hospitals and health centres.
However, Bright also acknowledged that hopefully there might be mitigating factors, such as large sections of its rural population living in remote mountainous villages in the highlands: “It could be that PNG will be spared the scale of the pandemic seen elsewhere such as Wuhan, a dense urban area with a mobile and older population.”