Trump pulls plug on WHO funds over virus ‘failure’
US President Donald Trump has officially ended America's $A800 million funding of the United Nations' World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mr Trump said he was severing ties with WHO because it had failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of the novel coronavirus.
He had already suspended funding to the UN agency, accusing it of being a "puppet" of China as the global health crisis erupted.
"We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation and directing those funds to worldwide and deserving, urgent global public health needs," he said.
He blamed the move on China not being transparent enough about the "Wuhan" virus, which is what he has called the coronavirus and slammed Beijing's over reach in Hong Kong.
"Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation," Mr Trump said.
The Republican leader said the US would be "redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs."
Meanwhile, the President said the US would restrict Chinese students and start reversing Hong Kong's special status in customs and other areas as Beijing imposes a controversial security law.
Mr Trump said the Chinese government has been "diminishing the city's longstanding and very proud status." "This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China, and indeed the people of the world," Mr Trump said.
AFRICA THE NEW US-CHINA BATTLEGROUND
President Trump is trying to help African nations battle the coronavirus in an apparent effort to boost the US's influence there to combat China's, according to a new report.
The Trump administration has offered ventilators to African countries grappling with the virus and pledged some $270 million in foreign aid to at-risk places including Algeria, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, Ghana and Liberia, Politico reported Friday.
The commander-in-chief made phone calls last month to the leaders of Rwanda, South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria, a notable outreach given his limited emphasis on Africa since he took office, according to the outlet. The administration also reportedly pledged up to 1,000 ventilators to South Africa, home to Africa's largest number of coronavirus cases.
The White House sees Africa as a battleground in its recent spat with China, which has been the continent's largest trading partner for more than a decade, Politico's story says.
"It's an important source of support for the Chinese Communist Party and they are working hard to make sure their narrative gains traction over the US message," Joshua Meservey of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, told the outlet.
"When there is an emergency, whether it is ebola or Covid, the United States is there," a senior State Department official told Politico. "Not only did we not set fire to the village but we're bringing the most buckets of water."
CORONAVIRUS DIDN'T START IN WUHAN WET MARKET BUT 'SUPER SPREADER' BROUGHT IT THERE, CHINESE RESEARCHERS CLAIM
The Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has claimed the Wuhan wet market was not the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chinese CDC says a "superspreader" visited the Chinese city and sparked the COVID-19 outbreak which swept the world and has killed over 300,000 people.
After taking samples of the products in the market, the CDC found none of them had the pathogen.
This led to the new theory that someone visiting the market had already contracted COVID-19 and became a superspreader - giving it to shoppers and vendors.
The Chinese CDC concluded "the wet market was a victim of the virus" rather than the virus being transmitted from animals on sale.
Most of the original 41 virus cases reported to the World Health Organisation in December were linked to the 116-acre market.
Authorities then shut the wet market down on January 1 although the majority of its 3,600 shops had reportedly reopened by April 14.
But it is now thought the virus was circulating in Wuhan before those original 41 cases were first reported.
The Chinese CDC study reveals 13 of the original cases had no link to the wet market at all.
It also concluded the first person confirmed to have coronavirus was likely exposed as early as December 1 before showing symptoms on December 8.
Meanwhile the identity of "patient zero" hasn't been confirmed, but it may have been a 55-year-old man from China's Hubei province who was infected on November 17, according to the South China Morning Post, which reviewed government documents.
ANDREW CUOMO SAYS NYC WILL BEGIN REOPENING PROCESS ON JUNE 8
Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced the global COVID-19 epicentre, New York City, will finally begin to emerge from its months-long coronavirus lockdown in 10 days.
"We are on track to open June 8," Mr Cuomo said from a school in New Rochelle, a village north of Manhattan where Amercia's first virus cluster was identified.
"Nobody reopened New York City in history. Nobody closed New York City in history."
He boasted: "That will be my claim to fame."
Mr Cuomo said the city's restart is a little over a week away, while warning the Big Apple will look much different than it did before the pandemic hit in March.
"It is reopening to a new normal. It's a safer normal. Reopening doesn't' mean going back to the past. People will be wearing masks. It's just a new way of interacting, which we have to do."
On June 8, about 400,000 workers in the city's construction, wholesale, manufacturing and curbside retail industries will return to their jobs as part of the state's phase 1 reopening scheme.
"I don't know if you can do strict social distancing on buses or subways…you have to wear a mask," Mr Cuomo said of how they would get to work.
The MTA put out a statement pushing back on guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control that encouraged workers to drive instead of taking mass transit.
EU PROMISES SPEEDY REVIEW OF REMDESIVIR
The European health regulator has vowed to conduct a speedy review of Gilead Sciences' potential COVID-19 drug, remdesivir, but says it has not yet received an application from the US drugmaker.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday its human medicines committee's (CHMP) timeline to assess the drug would be "reduced to the absolute minimum".
The announcement comes two weeks after the EMA head had told the European Parliament it may give an initial green light for sale of remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment, fast-tracking the drug to market amid tight global competition for resources.
The United States, the world's biggest pharmaceutical market, earlier this month granted emergency-use authorisation for remdesivir, clearing the way for broader use of the drug, but is yet to approve it.
In Pakistan, a pharmaceutical company plans to import remdesivir from neighbouring Bangladesh, it said on Friday in a stock exchange filing.
The announcement by Searle Company Limited came a day after 56 virus deaths recorded by the south Asian nation, its highest toll in one day.
Pakistan's tally of infections stands at 64,000, with 1317 deaths, but authorities estimate the disease will not peak until June.
It comes as India reported a jump of 7466 coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, its biggest one-day surge, as the country relaxed lockdown measures.
The total number of infections rose to 165,799, the Health Ministry said on Friday in its daily morning update.
This was the first time more than 7000 more cases were detected in a 24-hour period, following on from seven-consecutive days of more than 6000 cases per day.
There were 175 new deaths linked with COVID-19, taking the total number of deaths to 4706, surpassing the toll in neighbouring China, where the virus emerged last year.
Despite the rapidly increasing infections, India has progressively relaxed restrictions including opening up air travel.
While there are concerns over rising cases, there is enormous economic pressure in the country with millions of people unemployed due to the pandemic.
India is ninth for infections worldwide, just behind Germany and France. But in terms of fatalities, India is 13th.
Meanwhile, Europe's extensive social welfare net is showing signs of fraying under economic strain from the coronavirus.
Even as it seeks a government loan from France, struggling carmaker Renault announced 15,000 job cuts worldwide as part of a 2 billion-euro cost-cutting plan over three years, as demand for cars has plunged around the globe.
Renault said nearly 4600 jobs will be cut in France and more than 10,000 in the rest of the world.
That had a knock-on effect in Spain, where Nissan is rolling back production in a move Madrid said would mean 3000 direct job cuts and risks as many as 20,000 additional jobs in the supply chain.
Spanish workers took to the streets for a second day to protest the closure of three Barcelona plants.
Hundreds of workers have surrounded at least four of Nissan's car dealerships in or around the northeastern city, covering their windows with leaflets reading "Nissan betrays 25,000 families" and "We will keep fighting" among others.
The governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, in his annual address, said Europe's fourth-largest economy could contract by as much as 13 per cent this year under a pessimistic scenario that foresees a "magnitude" drop in world trade and an intense deterioration of financial conditions.
"Today uncertainty is rife, not only about the course of the pandemic but also about the repercussions on behavioural patterns, on consumption and on investment decisions," Visco said, adding that "after the pandemic wanes, the world will be a different place."
How different will depend on how leaders manage falling employment, lower consumption and the prospect of social unrest, he said.
Strong safety-net programs in many European countries are underwriting the wages of millions of workers and keeping them on the payroll instead of adding them to the ranks of the unemployed. But the limits are starting to show.
In Britain, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak is expected to tell employers that starting in August, they'll have to share the costs of a program that has effectively placed furloughed workers on the government payroll.
Sunak says the government can't pay indefinitely for a program that has cost 15 billion pounds ($18.4 billion) to cover 80 per cent of wages of some 8.5 million people.
It is in place until October, although the final months will require employer input.
In the US, where the death toll is the highest in the world and has surpassed 101,000, there were some encouraging signs in the economic data.
The overall number of Americans currently drawing jobless benefits dropped for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million.
And first-time applications for unemployment benefits have fallen for eight straight weeks as states gradually let stores, restaurants and other businesses reopen and the auto industry starts up factories again.
But the number of US workers filing for unemployment benefits is still extraordinarily high by historical standards, and that suggests businesses are failing or permanently downsizing, not just laying off people until the crisis can pass, economists warn.
"That is the kind of economic destruction you cannot quickly put back in the bottle," said Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork.
The US unemployment rate was 14.7 per cent in April, a level not seen since the Depression, and many economists expect it will be near 20 per cent in May.
Meanwhile, South Africa says it has a backlog of nearly 100,000 unprocessed tests for the coronavirus, a striking example of the painful shortage of testing kits and reagents across Africa as cases steadily rise.
The widespread shortages, especially in testing materials, have jolted African authorities into facing uncomfortable truths: Richer countries are elbowing them out and they need homegrown solutions to the shortages.
"We have to have Made in Africa products," the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters Thursday.
"We cannot keep importing basic things."
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.8 million people and killed about 360,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
The true dimensions of the disaster are widely believed to be significantly greater, with experts saying many victims died without ever being tested.
Originally published as Trump pulls plug on WHO funding for good over coronavirus 'failure'