Apr 8, 2020 - Health

Trump hits WHO on coronavirus: "They should've known"

In this image, Trump briefs reporters in the White House
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump claimed at a press briefing on Tuesday that the World Health Organization "probably" knew about the dangers of the novel coronavirus pandemic months before the agency sounded the alarm.

The big picture: The WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30 — 9 days after the CDC confirmed the first case in the U.S. and 10 days after South Korea announced its first case. Chinese officials told the WHO's China office about cases of COVID-19 on Dec. 31.

  • Taiwan health officials say they told the WHO at the end of December that the coronavirus risked person-to-person transmission. But on Jan. 14, the WHO announced Chinese authorities had seen "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus."
  • The WHO did not declare the coronavirus a pandemic until March 11, after 114 countries had reported cases.

What he's saying: "They called it wrong. They really, they missed the call. They could've called it months earlier, they would've known. And they should've known. And they probably did know. So we'll be looking into that very carefully," Trump said.

  • Trump initially said that the U.S. would "put a very powerful hold" on WHO funding, rebuking the organization for cautioning against imposing travel restrictions like the president did for China in early February.
  • He later denied to reporters that he said the U.S. would hold funds to the WHO. "No, I didn't, I said we're going to look at it, we're going to investigate it, we're going to look at it," he said. "But we will look at ending funding."

Of note: "We have it totally under control," Trump told CNBC in January. "It's one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine."

Go deeper ... Timeline: The early days of China's coronavirus outbreak and cover-up

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