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China to give WHO an extra $30m to fight coronavirus

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Via Financial Times

China has announced that it will give the World Health Organization an additional $30m to support its efforts in combating the global coronavirus pandemic, a week after Donald Trump said was he was suspending US funding. 

Hua Chunying, the foreign ministry’s chief spokesperson, said the donation was in addition to $20m China gave last month to the WHO’s coronavirus prevention efforts and would focus on “strengthening developing countries’ health systems”.

“At this crucial moment, supporting WHO is supporting multilateralism and global solidarity,” Ms Hua added.

Many allies of the US have criticised Mr Trump’s decision to with hold funding for the UN body which he accused of “severely mismanaging” the coronavirus pandemic. He also criticised the organisation’s relationship with China.

The US gave almost $900m to the WHO for its 2018-2019 budget cycle, making it the organisation’s largest donor.

China contributed about $85m, less than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK and Rotary International.

The Chinese government has been on the defensive in recent weeks as increasing numbers of politicians in the US, Europe and Australia call for a full official investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.

On Wednesday Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, accused Chinese officials of destroying coronavirus samples at the outset of the epidemic there and failing to report how rapidly it could spread until it was too late to contain the outbreak.

Mr Pompeo and other senior US officials have suggested that the outbreak might have been related to coronavirus research at virology laboratories in Wuhan, perhaps through an accidental infection.

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In an interview with Scientific American magazine earlier this year, Shi Zhengli, one of China’s leading “virus hunters”, said she initially wondered if the disease “could have come from our lab”. When researchers concluded that the samples in her Wuhan lab did not match the coronavirus then spreading across the city, Ms Shi told the magazine it “really took a load off my mind — I had not slept for days”.

China’s foreign ministry hit back at Mr Pompeo’s allegations on Thursday. “Some politicians in the US have repeatedly disparaged and discredited China’s virus prevention and control work,” Mr Geng said. “Their purpose is to muddy the waters and shirk responsibility for their own poor virus prevention and control work.”

On Thursday, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said his government would demand an international investigation into the pandemic at next month’s annual meeting of the WHO’s World Health Assembly.

“There are opportunities to pursue that matter there and that is our first port of call,” Mr Morrison said. “Our purpose here is just pretty simple, we would like the world to be safer when it comes to viruses,” he added.

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