US resumes WHO support, launches US$1.9 trillion virus plan

US resumes WHO support, launches US$1.9 trillion virus plan

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The United States on Thursday said it would resume its funding for the UN's health agency as President Joe Biden shifts towards greater international cooperation in the fight against COVID-19, while also launching a US$1.9 trillion plan to tackle the pandemic at home.

On his first day in the job, Biden confirmed he had reversed the decision of former president Donald Trump to quit the World Health Organization (WHO).

And on Day Two, Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci confirmed that the US would continue its hefty payments into the organisation's budget, prompting a wave of relief among international health experts.

"Under trying circumstances, this organisation has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics," Fauci told a WHO meeting via video-link.

Biden was a fierce critic of Trump's approach to tackling the virus in the US, which with more than 400,000 people dead is the world's worst-hit nation.

The new president is seeking to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days, increase the use of masks and testing, expand the public health workforce and offer more emergency relief to those struggling with the restrictions.

"For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy," said Jeff Zients, coordinator of the new COVID-19 task force. "As president Biden steps into office today, that all changes."

With infection rates spiralling and vaccine campaigns still in their infancy — and with the global death toll now past two million — countries from Lebanon to Sierra Leone were tightening restrictions Thursday.

In hard-hit Europe, the Dutch parliament approved an overnight curfew as EU ministers mulled internal border closures, although Russian capital Moscow announced it was lifting many of its harshest restrictions as Mayor Sergei Sobyanin expressed "cautious optimism" over the current figures.


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