US returns to world health fight

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 22 Jan 2021

In a dramatic turn, the United States thanked the World Health Organization for leading the pandemic fight and vowed to remain a member state.

"Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics," top US scientist Anthony Fauci - named as President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser - told a meeting of the WHO's executive board.

The organization, he said, had "relentlessly worked with nations in their fight against Covid-19."

His comments were a clear departure from the harsh criticism dealt by Donald Trump, who withdrew the United States from the WHO.

But on his first day in office, Biden reversed that decision.

In a letter sent to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, Biden announced he was retracting Trump's July 6 notification that the United States intended to withdraw from the UN health agency in 12 months' time.

"The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization," Biden wrote.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the change, saying "we are all glad the United States is staying in the family."

Fauci stressed that Washington - long the agency's top donor - was committed to resuming its funding.

And Washington planned to "work constructively with partners to strengthen and importantly reform the WHO."

Fauci stressed that the United States is aware of the towering task in reining in the pandemic, which in just over a year has claimed more than two million lives and infected close to 100 million people. The death tally under Trump is more than 400,000.

Biden said Fauci is also preparing to issue a directive including the US intent to join the Covax facility, a globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort aimed at equitable vaccine access.

Fauci also mentioned an international mission under way in China to help investigate the origins of Covid-19. "It is imperative we learn and build upon important lessons about how future pandemic events can be averted," he said.

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