Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold U.S. funding from the World Health Organization (WHO), calling the move “as dangerous as it sounds” amid the outbreak of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
“Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them,” Gates wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning, April 15. “The world needs WHO now more than ever.”
Trump, who has faced intense criticism of his handling of the crisis, accused the WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the coronavirus.
On Tuesday, the president announced he would halt funding the organization until a “review is conducted.” Trump singled out the WHO’s relationship with China and has claimed the organization wasn’t quick enough to address the growing outbreak.
In January, Trump had publicly praised China’s efforts to contain the virus, tweeting that “The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency.” A week later, his administration restricted travel from the country.
The United States government is the largest contributor to the WHO, but the second biggest is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the WHO’s website.
At the beginning of April, Gates announced that his foundation would spend “billions” investing in factories to produce a potential coronavirus vaccine. The foundation has also donated $100 million to fund first responders.
Wednesday’s tweet wasn’t the first time Gates has pushed back against the president.
In an interview with CNN at the end of March, Gates warned that the peak of the virus’s spread in the U.S. likely wouldn’t hit until the end of April. He called the president’s promise at the time that the country could lift its lockdown orders sooner “not realistic,” and estimated that end of June at the earliest would be more likely, but only “if we get our act together.”
Talking to the BBC, Gates also said it was his goal to “quickly have all the diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines” and criticized the responses to the crisis by many nations, including the U.S.
“We definitely will look back and wish we had invested more,” he said in the interview.
Gates has been an advocate for social distancing and quick action to combat the spread of COVID-19. In an article he published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Gates wrote about how governments and public health agencies need to help slow the spread of the virus, and about the need to help “African and South Asian countries get ready now.”
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