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COVID-19: China announces additional USD 30 million grant for WHO

Beijing: Cash-rich China on Thursday announced an additional USD 30 million grant to the World Health Organization to support its global fight against the deadly coronavirus, days after Beijing expressed "serious concern" over President Donald Trump's decision to freeze US' funding for the UN health agency over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang made the announcement at a media briefing here. The grant will be in addition to the USD 20 million provided by China, the world's second largest economy, earlier to the WHO.

"China has decided to donate another USD 30 million in cash to the WHO in addition to the USD 20 million cash donation to support the global fight against COVID-19 to help strengthen developing countries health systems," Geng said.

He clarified that the additional USD 30 million funding was "aimed to COVID-19 response and supporting the health systems of developing countries".

"This is a different thing from the membership dues paid by China," he said.

China hinted at stepping up its monetary contribution to the UN health agency on April 15. Beijing's response came a day after Trump announced to put a "very powerful" hold on US' funding to the WHO, accusing the UN agency of being "very China-centric" and criticising it for having "missed the call" in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The US is the largest donor to the Geneva-based WHO.

Trump also criticised the organisation's relationship with China.

"American taxpayers provide between USD 400m and USD 500 million per year to the WHO; in contrast China contributes roughly USD 40 million a year, even less. As the organisation's leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability," he said.

While announcing the new funding, Geng without referring to Trump's criticism, expressed China's full backing for the WHO and its Director General Dr General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whom Trump has termed as pro-China.

"Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the WHO and its Chief Dr Tedros have been actively fulfilling their duties in upholding scientific, objective and an impartial stance. It played an important role in helping the relevant countries strengthen their pandemic response and promote international cooperation," Geng said.

"As the global fight against COVID-19 is at a crucial stage supporting the WHO is defending the ideals and principles of multilateralism and upholding the status and authority of the UN," he said.

Terming the virus the "common enemy of all", Geng said solidarity was the only weapon to defeat it.

"Our donation is made out of support and trust of Chinese government and people for the WHO," Geng said, adding that "this is also our way of contributing to global public health and global efforts against the pandemic".

Earlier while responding to Trump's announcement to freeze US' funding for the WHO, another Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian had said: "China expresses serious concern over the US announcement to halt its funding to WHO".

He said China will always support the Geneva-based WHO in playing an important role in international public health and global anti-epidemic response.

Asked if China will step-up funding to the WHO to replace the US contributions, Zhao had said, "China has provided USD 20 million to the WHO (to fight COVID-19) and we will study the relevant matter", indicating that Beijing was considering to increase its contribution to the global health body.

Both China and the WHO faced serious criticism over lack of transparency especially about the discovery of the coronavirus in December last year and its silent spread in Wuhan until Beijing imposed a lockdown in the city on January 23.

By that time, over five million people from Wuhan were reported to have left for holiday destinations at home and abroad to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which many allege resulted in the spreading of the deadly virus worldwide.

China has denied the allegations of any cover-up, saying it was the first country to report the COVID-19 to the WHO.

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