WHO DIRECTOR-GENERAL URGES AGAINST POLITICIZING CORONAVIRUS

• Speaking in often emotional terms at his daily briefing in Geneva, he called for a “quarantine” on divisive political attacks on the novel coronavirus response. “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” he said.

He called for global solidarity, warning the world’s countries that they would be “playing with fire” if they try to exploit the pandemic for political purposes. “If you don’t believe in unity, please prepare for the worst to come.”

Mr. Trump, on Twitter and at a news conference Tuesday, threatened to freeze U.S. funding for the WHO – a potentially huge blow to the health agency, as the United States is its biggest single funding source.


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO

The leader of the World Health Organization, responding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest volley of verbal attacks on the health agency, has warned of “many more body bags” if the COVID-19 pandemic is politicized.


Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, revealed on Wednesday that he has been targeted with racist attacks and death threats as the agency became embroiled in an increasingly polarized and heated political environment worldwide.

Dr. Tedros, an Ethiopian who won election to the WHO’s top job in 2017, said the personal attacks on him began more than two months ago. “Abuse, or racist comments, giving me names, black or Negro ... even death threats.”


Speaking in often emotional terms at his daily briefing in Geneva, he called for a “quarantine” on divisive political attacks on the novel coronavirus response. “If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” he said.


He called for global solidarity, warning the world’s countries that they would be “playing with fire” if they try to exploit the pandemic for political purposes. “If you don’t believe in unity, please prepare for the worst to come.”


Mr. Trump, on Twitter and at a news conference Tuesday, threatened to freeze U.S. funding for the WHO – a potentially huge blow to the health agency, as the United States is its biggest single funding source.


He accused the WHO of being biased in favour of China and failing to give early support to his restrictions on travellers from China. He alleged the organization “called it wrong” by failing to move aggressively enough in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO,” he said. “They seem to be very China-centric. … They seem to err always on the side of China.”


But his criticism was swiftly rejected by political leaders in Africa, where the WHO has been a crucial source of support for battles against Ebola, malaria and other diseases.


The presidents of Rwanda, South Africa, Nigeria and Namibia, along with the head of the African Union Commission, rallied to the defence of the WHO on Wednesday.


“Surprised to learn of a campaign by the U.S. government against WHO’s global leadership,” said a tweet by Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, which represents 55 member countries.


He said the African Union fully supports the WHO and its director-general. “The focus should remain on collectively fighting COVID-19 as a united global community. The time for accountability will come.”


Later he added: “I certainly do not imply that it is WHO or Dr. Tedros that need to account in this regard.”


Rwandan President Paul Kagame tweeted that he totally agreed with the African Union leader. He said Dr. Tedros had the “full confidence and support of Africa.” He added: “Save us [from] too much politics, Africa does not need it.”