China’s Xi pledges $2bn to help fight coronavirus

The president also announces he backs WHO-led investigation into the "international health response to COVID-19"

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday his country will provide $2bn over two years to help other countries respond to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The leader of the world’s second-largest economy, where the COVID-19 initially emerged late last year, was speaking via video conferencing at the opening ceremony of a key World Health Organisation meeting.

“China will provide 2bn US dollars over two years to help with COVID-19 response, and with economic and social development in affected countries, especially developing countries,“ Xi said, according to an official English translation. 

Xi added that when a vaccine for the disease is available, it “will be made a global public good.” Some Chinese companies are at the forefront of development and testing for a Covid-19 vaccine.

The 73rd World Health Assembly, whose annual gathering kicked off Monday, is a decision-making body of the WHO, which is the United Nations’ specialised global health agency. The meeting of 194 members typically occurs in Geneva, Switzerland, where delegates agree upon the organization’s leadership, priorities and budget. This year, due to the coronavirus, the shortened session is set to run virtually between Monday and Tuesday. 

Ahead of the assembly, at least 116 nations expressed support for a draft resolution led by the European Union and Australia calling for review of the origins and spread of the coronavirus, Reuters reported Monday. If two-thirds of the 194-member assembly back the resolution, it will be put forward on Tuesday, the newswire said. 

In his opening speech on Monday, Xi did not specifically mention the draft resolution or China’s view on it. 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. 

“We also need to continue supporting global research by scientists on the source and transmission routes of the virus,“ Xi said.  

“China supports the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to COVID-19 after it is brought under control, to sum up our experience and address deficiencies,” he added. “This work should be led by science and professionalism, led by the WHO and conducted in an objective and impartial manner.”

The spread of the virus has stalled within China, where the disease has killed more than 4,600 people. In the US, new confirmed coronavirus cases still hover near 20,000 or more a day, and the cumulative death toll has topped 89,500 people. 

US President Donald Trump said over the weekend that he might restore a portion of US funding to the WHO, after suspending contributions in April amid a review of the organisation’s handling of Covid-19. It is unclear by what mechanism Trump will withhold the funding. Congress appropriates much of the funding and set aside $122 million for the WHO for fiscal year 2020.

China announced it would contribute $30m to the WHO in April, following a $20m donation in March, according to Reuters. On Monday, Xi also emphasised how China would work in particular to support Africa in virus prevention and control efforts.

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