Virus leak from Wuhan lab ‘unlikely’: World Health Organization
Investigators from the World Health Organization say COVID-19 likely jumped to humans from an animal. Greg Palkot reports from London.
Republicans hit the White House’s plan to shell out $200 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the end of the month, arguing the organization should first take steps to commit to greater transparency.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the plan to reengage with the organization that former President Donald Trump halted funding to and moved to withdraw from last year over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak and its alleged pro-China bias.
The pulling of funding was significant, as the U.S. accounted for about a quarter of the annual fees the WHO assesses to all its 194 members.
“The WHO misled the world at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, and President Biden is making a serious mistake by resuming funding to this organization without meaningful commitments for reform and transparency,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement Thursday.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s corruption of the WHO occurred despite U.S. engagement and funding. Reengaging in the WHO and other international organizations should follow after careful consideration of a new approach, because simply showing up is not enough if malign influences are able to control these institutions.”
“I think the Chinese influence is simply too big, too deep in the organization to do with his leadership. I don’t agree with President Biden’s decision to rejoin the WHO. I don’t think they’ve changed their ways,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News during a virtual Q&A at the Ronald Reagan Institute.
Cotton pointed to the WHO’s report concluding it was “highly unlikely” COVID-19 came from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Many didn’t buy that conclusion. “They just dismissed out of hand the prospect that the coronavirus may have been the result of an accidental lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, without really any evidence, without probing the question,” he said.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, leader of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus should be ousted from the organization before funding is resumed.
BIDEN TO REENGAGE WITH WHO AFTER TRUMP CUT TIES OVER COVID, CHINA
“The WHO plays an important role in protecting global health, but their credibility has been tarnished under Director-General Tedros’ leadership. That is why I have repeatedly called for his resignation and encouraged both President Trump and President Biden to use our voluntary financial contributions as leverage to force much-needed change,” McCaul said in a statement to Fox News Wednesday. “The world should trust the WHO is led by someone who cares more about global health than he does about appeasing the CCP.”
The State Department has admitted the need for reform at the WHO, but said the money next month would not be contingent on such reforms.
“The secretary of State has said that we will swiftly review and develop options for key reforms in the early stage of this administration,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price, adding that “multilateral cooperation” was necessary to “in order to staunch outbreaks before they become epidemics, in order to staunch epidemics before they become pandemics.”
“The WHO is an important international institution. I think it’s fair to say that it has never been more important and we have deep respect for its experts and the work they are doing every day to fight COVID-19 and to advance global health and global health security,” Price said.
Price promised the State Department was still working to reform the organization.
“At the same time, we know there are areas for reform, and this is something that the State Department is prioritizing. We’re working very closely with our partners in the interagency to identify ways we can strengthen this institution,” he continued.
President Biden reversed the Trump administration’s moves to withdraw from the WHO on his first day in office.
“The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security,” Biden said in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.”
However, on Saturday, the administration expressed “deep concerns” about the WHO’s probe into the Chinese handling of the coronavirus in Wuhan.
“We have deep concerns about the way in which the early findings of the COVID-19 investigation were communicated and questions about the process used to reach them,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a lengthy statement. “It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government.”
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Sullivan referenced statements by the team that they did not get to see raw data and had to rely on an analysis of the data that was presented to them – and called for China to make it available.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.
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