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Trump says WHO "blew it" over pandemic as New York cases soar


US President Donald Trump has put funding to the “China-centric” World Health Organisation on hold, saying it “called it wrong” over the coronoavirus pandemic.

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The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body which Trump said had issued bad advice during the new coronavirus outbreak.

US contributions to WHO in 2019 exceeded $US400 million, almost double the 2nd largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed $US44 million.

“The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump said in a Twitter post.

“For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

Trump repeated the accusations against the UN health organisation at a White House news briefing later on Tuesday.

“They called it wrong. They really – they missed the call,” the president said. “And we’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO. We’re going to put a very powerful hold on it and we’re going to see.”

The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body, contributing $US400 million in 2019, compared with China’s $US44 million.

But WHO officials defended their organisation against Trump’s claims.

“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said.

It came as the number of coronavirus cases in New York state alone approached 150,000 on Wednesday, surpassing Spain for the most infections anywhere in the world, even as authorities warned the US state’s official death tally may understate the true toll.

New York and neighbouring New Jersey again reported new single-day highs for coronavirus deaths.

New York state has 149,316 reported cases compared to Spain’s 146,690, according to a Reuters tally.

In total, the United States has recorded more than 417,000 coronavirus cases and 14,100 deaths.

New York officials said a recent surge in the number of people dying at home suggests that the most populous US city may be under-counting how many people have died of COVID-19.

“I think that’s a very real possibility,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his daily news briefing.

Cuomo said 779 people died from the coronavirus in the past day in his state and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said another 275 had died there. Both totals exceeded one-day records reported just a day earlier.

Despite the grim tally, Cuomo said overall trends still appear positive, with the rate of hospitalisations down in the state at the epicentre of the American. epidemic.

“Every number is a face, right,” Cuomo said of the death statistics.

“This virus attacked the vulnerable and attacked the weak and it’s our job as a society to protect the vulnerable.”

Murphy tightened New Jersey’s social-distancing requirements, ordering retailers including grocery stores still allowed to operate to limit customers, ensure that customers and employees wear face coverings and regularly sanitise the premises.

“We need to continue to be absolutely vigilant and, if anything tighten, as opposed to loosen,” Murphy said of coronavirus-related restrictions on residents.

“And I don’t say that with any joy.”

The UK reported a new daily record of 938 hospital deaths linked to coronavirus infections, taking total fatalities to more than 7000.

The UK health ministry said the total of confirmed infections rose to nearly 61,000 from 282,000 people tested, but government experts estimate that many hundreds of thousands of people are infected.

Though significantly larger than the previous highest toll of 786, deputy chief scientific adviser Professor Dame Angela McLean said new cases are not “accelerating out of control”.

“I suspect that simple strategies might well turn out to be the best to use, but we’ll see,” Prof McLean said.

NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis warned that “this is not the time to become complacent”, however.

“We are beginning to see the benefits, I believe (of following Government measures), but the really critical thing, I believe, is that we have to continue following instructions, we have to continue following social distancing, because if we don’t, the virus will start to spread again,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care with coronavirus and is receiving oxygen but his condition is improving and he “can sit up in bed,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday.

Johnson was admitted to hospital on Sunday, 10 days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. He was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit on Monday when his condition deteriorated.

Spain recorded another 757 virus deaths overnight, marking the second daily rise in a row and bringing the total death toll to 14,555 – the world’s second-highest after Italy.

There is increasing suspicion, however, that the official toll is under-estimating a more traumatic reality.

In Madrid, the difference between the number of burials reported in the last two weeks of March and the death toll from the virus was substantially higher than the number who died over the same period in 2018.

That suggested some casualties of the epidemic were not reflected.

Madrid’s Regional High Court said it signed more than 9,000 burial certificates in the last two weeks of March, while only 4,311 deaths were recorded across the whole month in 2018. The official death toll from coronavirus in Madrid region is 5,586.

The elderly population has been hit particularly hard, with 4,750 fatalities recorded in the past month among Madrid’s population of around 50,000 nursing home residents.

Some 3,749 of them had coronavirus-like symptoms but were not tested, meaning they would not be in the official tally.

Overall, cases rose to 146,690 from 140,510 on Tuesday.

Tokyo recorded 144 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily jump since the start of the pandemic.

Total infections in the Japanese capital stand at 1,339, with 4,768 infections and 98 deaths nationwide

The number of infections is still far smaller than in many European countries and the United States, but a steady rise in some areas prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to declare an emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and five other hard-hit prefectures.

Singapore’s Health Ministry confirmed 142 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for a total of 1,623, the biggest daily increase yet, and said a seventh person had died after testing positive for the disease.

Forty of the new cases were linked to foreign worker dormitories. The Southeast Asian city state has quarantined workers in three dormitories after they were linked to several cases of the COVID-19 respiratory disease.

-with AAP

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