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Coronavirus: Trump’s WHO funding cut draws criticism as COVID-19 spreads

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U.S. President Donald Trump‘s announcement he was cutting U.S. funding for the World Health Organization prompted criticism Saturday, as spiking infection rates in India and elsewhere served as a reminder the global pandemic is far from contained.

Trump on Friday charged that the WHO didn’t respond adequately to the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the U.N. agency of being under China‘s “total control.”

The WHO wouldn’t comment on the announcement but South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize called it an “unfortunate” turn of events.

“Certainly, when faced with a serious pandemic, you want all nations in the world to be particularly focused … on one common enemy,” he told reporters.

The U.S. is the largest source of financial support for the WHO, and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organization. Trump said the U.S. would be “redirecting” the money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” without providing specifics.

In China, where the virus outbreak began, only four new confirmed cases were reported Saturday, all brought from outside the country, and no new deaths. Just 63 people remained in treatment.

After judging the situation there now safe, a chartered flight carrying 200 German managers back to their jobs landed in Tianijin, a port city just east of Beijing. A flight carrying another 200 was due in Shanghai on Thursday.

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“I’m really happy that business is starting again,” said Karin Wasowski, a Volkswagen employee, before boarding the flight in Frankfurt. “I’ve been working from a home office but that is, of course, something completely different to being there.”

More than 5,200 German companies operate in China, employing more than 1 million people.

“This is an important step to reconnect China’s and Germany’s economies,” said Jens Hildebrandt, executive director of the German Chamber of Commerce in North China, which helped organize the flights. “It is our common interest to contribute in helping the economy return to normalcy and pre-virus levels.”

Close to 6 million coronavirus infections have been reported worldwide, with more than 365,000 deaths and almost 2.5 million recoveries, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The true dimensions are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.

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