NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/03/10: UN SG Antoni
UN SG Antonio Guterres briefs press on climate change at UN Headquarters. (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • The UN Secretary-General said "now is not that time," in a rebuke to President Donald Trump's call to halt funding to the World Health Organisation.
  • Trump claims WHO mishandled the coronavirus outbreak and was too sympathetic to China.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

The United Nations Secretary-General rebuked President Donald Trump after he announced his plans to halt funding for the World Health Organisation on Tuesday.

In a statement, António Guterres wrote: "It is my belief that the World Health Organisation must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against Covid-19."

WHO is an independent international organisation that works with the UN. During Tuesday's White House press briefing, Trump was critical of the organisation's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and claimed it enabled China to hide the real extent of the coronavirus outbreak.

"With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America's generosity has been put to the best use possible," Trump said during a press conference at the White House's Rose Garden. "The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet, and share information in a timely and transparent fashion."

However, despite his criticism of WHO, Trump has been accused of not responding quickly enough to the threat of the virus in the US, and some health care experts said early lockdowns could have saved lives.

"After he wasted weeks calling Covid-19 as harmless as the flu. International cooperation on public health has never been more critical. Freezing funding for the World Health Organisation will only make it worse," Rep. Adam Schiff said in a tweet.

According to Reuters, the US contributes about 15% of the WHO budget, approximately $400 million (R7 billion). The organisation has requested $1 billion (R18 billion) to help fund initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

"As it is not that time, it is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organisation or any other humanitarian organisation in the fight against the virus," Guterres wrote in his statement. "As I have said before, now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences. "

Trump has previously threatened to cut the WHO funding earlier this month as well after he accused them of being sympathetic to China. WHO receives $40 million (R7 bbillion) from China.

At a press conference, Trump became defensive after a reporter asked him how he could criticise WHO for praising China's transparency when he did the same thing in a late-January tweet.

"I don't talk about China's transparency," Trump replied. "If I'm so good to China, how come I'm the one that closed our borders against China?"

Guterres wrote that they'll be plenty of time after the pandemic subsides to learn and understand how it spread and managed to be destructive: "The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future. But now is not that time."

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