US officially notifies UN of withdrawal from the WHO
The United States has formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization on July 6, 2021, the UN said on Tuesday.
US President Donald Trump, who has harshly criticized WHO’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has to give one-year notice of the US withdrawal from the Geneva-based body and pay all Washington’s dues under a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress. The United States, which is the agency’s largest donor and provides it with more than US$450 million per year, currently owes the WHO more than US$200 million in assessed contributions, according to the WHO website.
Trump’s decision could be overturned before it takes effect if he is defeated by his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in a November election. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said he would reverse the decision on his first day in office if elected.
Trump had halted funding for the 194-member organization in April, then in a May 18 letter gave the WHO 30 days to commit to reforms. He announced the United States would quit less than two weeks later.
Asked whether it was the right time to break with the WHO, Vice President Mike Pence said: “It’s absolutely the right time. The World Health Organization let the world down ... There have to be consequences to this,” he said.
The WHO is an independent international body that works with the United Nations. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that the WHO is “absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.”
“The Secretary-General ... is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement on Tuesday.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus responded to the news with a one-word tweet — “Together!” — as he linked to a discussion by US health experts on how leaving the global body could impede efforts to prevent future pandemics.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi described it as “an act of true senselessness as WHO coordinates the global fight against COVID-19.”
“With millions of lives at risk, the President is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus,” Pelosi posted on Twitter.
UN Foundation President Elizabeth Cousens called the move “short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous. WHO is the only body capable of leading and coordinating the global response to COVID-19. Terminating the US relationship would undermine the global effort to beat this virus — putting all of us at risk.”
Chinese Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the move was “another demonstration of the US pursuing unilateralism, withdrawing from groups and breaking contracts.”
The US departure from the organization “undermines the international anti-epidemic efforts, and in particular has a serious negative impact on developing countries in urgent need of international support,” Zhao said.
So far there have been nearly 12 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 540,000 known deaths worldwide, according to a Reuters tally, with about 25 percent of both cases and deaths in the United States.
Grim milestone amid upsurge in infections
The US coronavirus outbreak crossed a grim milestone of over 3 million confirmed cases on Tuesday as more states reported record numbers of new infections.
Authorities have reported alarming upswings of caseloads in roughly two dozen states over the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control transmission of the novel coronavirus have failed in large swaths of the country.
California, Hawaii, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas on Tuesday shattered their previous daily record highs for new cases. The biggest jumps occurred in Texas and California, the two largest US states, with more than 10,000 each. About 24 states have reported disturbingly high infection rates.
In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.
The trend has driven many more Americans to seek out COVID-19 screenings. The US Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it was adding short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
In Florida, more than four dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their intensive care units had reached full capacity, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Only 17 percent of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds statewide were available on Tuesday, down from 20 percent three days earlier.
The respiratory illness has killed more than 131,000 Americans to date. At least 923 of those deaths were reported Tuesday, the biggest single-day toll since June 10 but still far fewer than the record 2,806 tallied back in April.