Health and Science

U.S. slams WHO response to the coronavirus pandemic, says a failure by the UN 'cost many lives'

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Key Points
  • The United States said the United Nations' health agency failed to obtain information about the virus when the world needed it.
  • "That failure cost many lives," Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on the first day of the WHO's two-day virtual World Health Assembly.
  • "In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world," Azar continued, in an apparent reference to China.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar wears a face mask while attending a press briefing about coronavirus testing in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 11, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

The United States on Monday chastised the World Health Organization for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the United Nations' health agency failed to obtain information about the virus when the world needed it.

"That failure cost many lives," Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on the first day of the WHO's two-day virtual World Health Assembly.

More than 4.7 million people have contracted Covid-19 worldwide, with 315,822 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

"In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world," Azar continued, in an apparent reference to China.

"We saw that WHO failed at its core mission of information sharing and transparency when member states do not act in good faith. This cannot ever happen again," he added.

The WHO was not immediately available to respond when contacted by CNBC on Monday.

President Donald Trump's administration has been particularly critical of the WHO's response, with Trump saying the U.S. would halt funding to the organization in April.

However, Trump said Saturday he was considering restoring some funding to the WHO.

Earlier Monday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will initiate an independent review into its handling of the coronavirus pandemic "at the earliest appropriate moment" and urged countries to continue funding the agency.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told the assembly his country will provide $2 billion over two years to help other countries respond to the impact of the pandemic. He insisted that China has been open, transparent and responsible all along in providing information to the WHO and other countries, and has shared the genome sequence of the coronavirus.