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Trump Halts WHO Funding as U.S. Daily Death Toll Reaches New High

Cases across the country rose to over 600,000 as Trump took aim at the WHO.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 14, 2020, in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The United States recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll while President Trump called to end WHO funding, the IMF predicts the biggest global recession since the Great Depression, and South Korea votes in legislative elections.

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U.S. Death Toll Climbs as Trump Halts WHO Funding

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The United States recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll while President Trump called to end WHO funding, the IMF predicts the biggest global recession since the Great Depression, and South Korea votes in legislative elections.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


U.S. Death Toll Climbs as Trump Halts WHO Funding

The United States recorded its highest daily death toll of its coronavirus epidemic on Tuesday as the country’s overall infections climbed to over 600,000. On Tuesday, 2,299 new deaths were reported, halting a downward trend in the U.S. death rate over the last three days.

Faced with those figures, U.S. President Donald Trump has focused his ire on the World Health Organization, “Today I’m instructing my administration to stop funding of the WHO while a review is conducted to assess the WHO’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” he said at a White House briefing.

“Please don’t politicize this virus,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on April 8 after Trump had accused the WHO of being “China-centric.”

“If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you do it. If you don’t want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it,” he added.

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has been particularly scathing about Trump’s conduct, sending a letter to House Democrats with six bullet points outlining her version of events that led to the U.S. coronavirus crisis. The final bullet point said, “The truth is a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others.”

Trump has a history with the WHO. The decision to halt U.S. funding to the WHO is just one way the Trump administration has sought to weaken the organization, even before the coronavirus outbreak became a pandemic. In early February, FP’s Robbie Gramer and Colum Lynch reported on the Trump administration’s 2021 budget, which proposed halving U.S. WHO funding to $58 million.

Will a U.S. budget freeze harm the WHO? The United States provided just under 15 percent of the organization’s budget in 2018-2019. After the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the next largest donor, providing just under 10 percent of its budget. It’s likely that other donors will fill the gap left by the United States in the short term, but if the standoff persists it could lead to a restructuring for the organization.


What We’re Following Today

IMF predicts worst recession since Great Depression. The International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath projected that the global economy would contract by 3 percent, a dowturn three times greater than the contraction after the 2008 financial crisis. “It is very likely that this year the global economy will experience its worst recession since the Great Depression,” Gopinath said. She added that although a “partial recovery is projected for 2021” countries should still expect their economies to be 5 percent smaller.

Voting concludes in South Korean election. Polls close today in South Korea’s parliamentary elections, one of the first countries to hold an election during the coronavirus pandemic. Turnout at early voting locations favorable to the ruling Democratic Party indicate a return to power is likely, as South Korea becomes the world’s poster child for its handling of the coronavirus epidemic. Morten Soendergaard Larsen reports for FP from Seoul on South Korea’s election, where voters are given gloves before entering voting booths and hand sanitizer upon leaving the polling station.

Saudi coalition says Houthis are breaking cease-fire. The Saudi-led coaltion fighting in Yemen has accused the Houthis of breaking a recently announced cease-fire 241 times in the space of 48 hours. The Saudi-led coalition began a cease-fire last Thursday, although Houthi forces had never formally accepted its terms. Coalition officials cited ballistic and artillery attacks in the governorates of Marib, al-Jawf and Nihm as proof of Houthi actions. The United Nations has repeatedly called for a cease-fire in Yemen as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold around the world. Yemen has only recorded one case so far, although testing is largely unavailable.

Lavrov floats U.S.-Russia missile talks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday he is open to discussing hypersonic missiles with the United States as part of a wider dialogue on arms control and “strategic stability.” Both countries have been developing hypersonic missiles, with Russian President Vladimir Putin overseeing a test in January. The move could signal a shift in strategy from Russia toward the United States amid falling oil prices. Moscow already won a diplomatic victory in early April when it delivered a shipment of medical supplies to New York.

Coronavirus strikes U.S. Navy hospital ship. Seven service members have tested positive for the coronavirus on the USNS Mercy, a navy hospital ship docked in Los Angeles to assist with coronavirus relief efforts. The seven have been removed from the ship, along with 112 others who had been in contact with them. Health workers worldwide have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus: one third of National Health Service staff who have been tested in the United Kingdom have tested positive, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday that between 10 and 20 percent of all cases in the United States were health workers.


Keep an Eye On

India extends lockdown. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended India’s lockdown measures until May 3, as the number of cases in the country passed 10,000. Neighboring Pakistan has also extended its lockdown. In Tuesday’s South Asia Brief, FP Managing Editor Ravi Agrawal warned of worse to come in South Asia, as migrant workers struggle and those living in poverty lack the resources to survive prolonged social distancing.

AMLO calls for early recall referendum. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has challenged his critics to bring forward a recall vote on his presidency to 2021, rather than its current date in 2022. “I’m offering them to bring forward the date. That we don’t wait until 2022 for the recall vote, that we take advantage of the (mid-term) elections by holding it the same day,” he said at a press conference. In November, Mexico enacted a constitutional change allowing for a recall vote halfway through a president’s six-year term.

The constitutional change’s original draft had set mid-term legislative elections in 2021 as the recall vote date, however opposition parties moved the date to 2022 before ratifying the change, making it unlikely they will now take López Obrador’s bait.

Scientists warn of U.S. social distancing until 2022. A new report published in Science magazine warns that social distancing measures may have to remain in place in the United States until 2022. The authors warn that “prolonged or intermittent social distancing may be necessary into 2022” in order to not overwhelm existing critical care capacity. It’s not yet known whether humans can gain long-term immunity from this coronavirus, however, if it acts like similar viruses “recurrent wintertime outbreaks are likely to occur in coming years,” the authors note.


Odds and Ends

Soccer fans often taunt opposing supporters as inauthentic, or “plastic” fans, and in Belarus—the only country in Europe to still host public soccer matches—the fans aren’t quite plastic, but they are close to it. In an effort to fill stadium seats, life-size cardboard cutouts were fitted with jerseys and scarves to watch FC Dynamo Brest beat Isloch Minsk 3-1. It’s a sign of what sports could look like as leagues get to grips with the coronavirus pandemic. FC Dynamo Brest aren’t the first to fill their seats without humans, the Chinese Professional Baseball League began in Taiwan on Sunday with an audience of staff, mannequins, and robots.


That’s it for today.

For more from FP, visit foreignpolicy.com, subscribe here, or sign up for our other newsletters. Send your tips, comments, questions, or corrections to morningbrief@foreignpolicy.com.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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