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WHO: China pledges USD 2 billion to help with virus pandemic

05:33 | 19/05/2020

China will provide USD 2 billion over two years to fight the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout from it, President Xi Jinping said on May 18 at the 73rd annual World Health Assembly held by teleconference for the first-time ever, Associated Press reported.

who china pledges usd 2 billion to help with virus pandemic
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivering a speech via video link at the opening of the World Health Assembly virtual meeting from the WHO headquarters in Geneva, on May 18, 2020. (Photo: AFP/WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION)

In a speech to the World Health Assembly, Xi said China had provided all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries, including the virus's genetic sequence, "in a most timely fashion."

"We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation," Xi said. "We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need."

The USD 2 billion over the next two years will support COVID-19 response efforts, including economic and social development, particularly in developing countries, Xi said.

More than 4.7 million people worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus and over 315,000 deaths have been reported, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The US has reported almost 90,000 deaths, and Europe has seen over 160,000 dead.

China reported just seven new cases on Monday but kept tighter social-distancing rules in parts of the northeastern province of Jilin after a cluster of cases of unknown origin turned up.

The European Union's 27-member bloc and other countries proposed that the independent evaluation should be initiated "at the earliest appropriate moment" and should, among other issues, examine "the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic."

US President Donald Trump has in recent weeks repeatedly attacked WHO, claiming it helped China conceal the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in its early stages. Several Republican lawmakers have called on the WHO chief to resign.

In his address to the annual meeting of WHO's member countries, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned there is still "a long road to travel" before the pandemic is contained, noting that the majority of the world's population remains susceptible to the virus.

Tedros said the pandemic has exposed critical fault lines between countries that could jeopardize stopping the virus.

"Science has been hailed and scorned, nations have come together as never before and geopolitical divisions have been thrown into sharp relief," he said.

Tedros emphasized that WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency on Jan. 30, its highest level of alert, at a time when there were fewer than 100 cases outside of China. In the following weeks, WHO warned countries there was a narrowing "window of opportunity" to prevent the virus from spreading globally.

Tedros added that WHO was committed to "transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement" and welcomed the proposal for an independent evaluation of the global response to COVID-19, including WHO's coordinating role.

"I will initiate an independent evaluation at the earliest appropriate moment," he said.

During the first few months of the outbreak, WHO officials repeatedly described the virus's spread as "limited" and said it wasn't as transmissible as flu; experts have since said COVID-19 spreads even faster. It declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11, after the virus had killed thousands globally and sparked large epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and elsewhere.

Xi said he also supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19.

"This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner," he said.

MAKE VACCINE A "GLOBAL PUBLIC GOOD"

China would also make any coronavirus vaccine it developed a "global public good" once it was put into use, said Xi.

China has five potential vaccines in clinical trials as countries race to find a way to stop the pathogen.

In his speech, Xi said: "After the research and development of China's coronavirus vaccine is completed and it is put into use, it will be made a global public good."

This move would be China's contribution to achieving accessibility and affordability of a vaccine in developing countries as well, Xi said.

More vaccine candidates are in the pipeline and awaiting approval for human trials, said Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, last week.

Experts say it will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop an effective vaccine, or an even longer period.

Beijing will also work with the United Nations to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub in China and help establish so-called green corridors to move essential goods quickly throughout the world, Xi said.

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