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Homeland Security

WHO Chief Says 'Politicization' of Pandemic Hurting Global Efforts

By VOA News June 22, 2020

The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the coronavirus pandemic is being politicized and that a lack of global leadership to fight the virus is a bigger threat than the virus itself.

"The world is in desperate need of national unity and global solidarity. The politicization of the pandemic has exacerbated it," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday during a videoconference for the Dubai-based World Government Summit.

"The greatest threat we face now is not the virus itself. It's the lack of global solidarity and global leadership," Tedros added.

Tedros did not say who he thought was politicizing the pandemic.

U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the WHO for its response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying it acted too slowly and with too much praise for China. He has threatened to end all U.S. funding for the organization.

Tedros said Monday the world reported a jump of 183,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, the largest single-day increase it has recorded since the pandemic began.

Global infections surpassed 9 million on Monday. Tedros noted that it took over three months for the world to see 1 million virus infections, but the last 1 million cases have come in just eight days.

WHO officials have said for several weeks the focus of the outbreak is in the Americas, and the numbers from Sunday showed a one-day rise of more than 116,000 cases in that region.

Brazil led with nearly 55,000 new cases, followed by the United States with more than 36,000 and India with about 15,000 new cases.

More than a dozen U.S. states are seeing rising case numbers. In New York, however, once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, cases have leveled off. Monday marked an opening of more businesses.

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said on Fox News Sunday that in U.S. states where the virus is increasing, the spike is due to a combination of more testing and a real spike in infections.

"You can distinguish what is more testing from what is more serious disease from looking at hospitalization rates, ICU rates, and the percent positivity of the overall tests in a given state," Inglesby said. "And in many states ... particularly Arizona, Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, what we are seeing is increased positivity in testing, and in many cases, increased hospitalization. So, serious illness is happening."

Trump has said repeatedly he believes the number of confirmed cases in the United States, which leads the world with more than 2.2 million, is a result of its testing effort.

"Our Coronavirus testing is so much greater (25 million tests) and so much more advanced, that it makes us look like we have more cases, especially proportionally, than other countries," he tweeted late Sunday.

That followed comments at a political rally Saturday in which the president said, "When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down.'"

The White House later said the president was joking.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force are scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce committee Tuesday.

"The American people are owed answers about why President Trump wants less testing when experts say much more is needed," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

"The President's efforts to slow down desperately needed testing to hide the true extent of the virus mean more Americans will lose their lives," she said in a statement Sunday.

New Zealand announced Monday it was tightening some coronavirus restrictions as it tries to stamp out an uptick in cases, all imported, after having declared it eliminated any active cases in the country.

The measures include extending a ban on cruise ships docking in New Zealand ports and stricter conditions to be met before those who arrive from overseas can leave quarantine.

New Zealand has reported nine new cases, including two more Monday, all of whom are in isolation facilities.

South Korea, which has been dealing with its own increase mainly in the Seoul area in recent weeks, reported 17 new cases Monday, the smallest increase in nearly a month.

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that across the content, the number of confirmed cases passed the 300,000 mark. South Africa has the most with more than 97,000.

In Pakistan, authorities are allowing some trade with neighboring Afghanistan beginning Monday, with trucks carrying fruits, vegetables and other goods able to cross the Ghulam Khan border.

In Japan, there was good news Monday for sports fans. The heads of the country's professional baseball and football leagues said that beginning July 10, games can be played with up to 5,000 fans in attendance. People will be required to wear masks and avoid shouting.

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