TOPSHOT - EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19 virus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 11, 2020. - WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on March 11, 2020 that the new coronavirus outbreak can now be characterised as a pandemic. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
WHO fires back after Trump threatened to pull US funding
02:35 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The prestigious medical journal The Lancet on Tuesday fact-checked President Donald Trump over an allegation he made in his letter to the World Health Organization threatening to permanently cut US funding as the world is still fighting coronavirus.

In a letter Monday to the director-general of WHO, Trump said that his administration’s review of WHO’s response to the outbreak found that the organization ignored “credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal.”

“The World Health Organization failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself,” he wrote.

The Lancet, however, said Tuesday “this statement is factually incorrect” and that it “published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”

The Lancet said it first published reports on January 24, 2020. The first report described the first 41 patients from Wuhan, China, diagnosed with Covid-19. The Lancet noted that the lead scientists and physicians on the study were from Chinese institutions and “worked with us to quickly make information about this new epidemic outbreak and the disease it caused fully and freely available to an international audience.”

The second report, compiled by scientists and physicians from Hong Kong and mainland China, described findings that indicated person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus, according to The Lancet.

In his Monday letter, Trump also said he would permanently pull US funding from the WHO if it does not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days” and if “it can actually demonstrate independence from China.”

The President’s threat comes at an extraordinary time when the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 90,000 Americans and more than 319,000 people worldwide as of Tuesday morning.

The Lancet said that Trump’s allegations against WHO are “serious and damaging to efforts to strengthen international cooperation to control this pandemic.”

It stressed that it’s “essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place in December and January.”

The Lancet also published an editorial last week strongly condemning the Trump administration’s “inconsistent and incoherent” response to Covid-19 and accusing the administration of undermining and minimizing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The editorial concluded with a call to vote Trump out of office.

“Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,” the editorial said.

As his administration has faced criticism over its handling of the coronavirus, Trump has shifted the blame to China and WHO.

WHO officials have defended their early actions when it came to fighting the coronavirus, noting that much was unknown about the virus back in January.

CNN’s Vasco Cotovio, Paul LeBlanc and John Bonifield contributed to this report.