GENEVA (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization's European office is hailing a show of support, including some commitments from around the world, for the U.N. health agency after President Donald Trump announced a halt to funding for it.
Amid an increasingly fraught financial situation for the WHO as it battles the coronavirus outbreak, Dr. Hans Kluge said: "We have been overwhelmed by the support of European countries."
In an online briefing, the WHO's regional director for Europe credited the United States for its historic support for the agency. The U.S. is WHO's top donor, contributing $400 million to $500 million annually in recent years. Trump on Tuesday ordered a halt to U.S. funding pending a review of its alleged “China-centric” response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
"We are looking at the finance situation. Some commitments have come in," Kluge said, without elaborating. "But for the time, we're in the midst of the crisis, so what we focus on is to save lives."
Kluge said some countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, have shown "optimistic signs in terms of declining numbers" in recent weeks, but the "small positive signals in some countries are tempered by sustained or increased levels of incidents in other countries, including the U.K., Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation."
"The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region," Kluge said, noting that case numbers are still rising — and have doubled to nearly 1 million over the past 10 days.
He said the WHO's European region is facing "about 50% of the global burden of Covid-19."
30,000 Sign Up to Help in German Harvest
BERLIN — Budget airline Eurowings says more than 30,000 people have registered for special flights that will bring them from Romania to Germany to help with the harvest season.
German farms rely heavily on Eastern European laborers for sowing, planting and harvesting crops and there have been concerns that restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic might stop workers from coming.
Lufthansa's subsidiary Eurowings said Thursday that it has already flown more than 3,000 workers from Romania to seven German airports and more than 100 additional flights are planned in the coming weeks.
German weekly Der Spiegel reported that a 57-year-old Romanian farmworker who died in southwestern Germany tested positive for Covid-19. Authorities are trying to trace anybody the man, who reportedly arrived in Germany on March 20, had contact with.
China Denies Reports of Virus Lab
BEIJING — China is rebutting allegations that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated in a laboratory near the city of Wuhan where contagious samples were being stored.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian cited the head of the World Health Organization and other unidentified medical experts as saying there was no evidence that transmission began from the lab and there was "no scientific basis" for such claims.
"We always believe that this is a scientific issue and requires the professional assessment of scientists and medical experts," Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing on Thursday.
"Only with reasonable response can the international community win this fight," Zhao said. "China will continue to work together with other countries to help and support each other."
China has also strongly denied claims it delayed reporting on the virus outbreak in Wuhan late last year and underreported case numbers. The virus is believed to have originated with bats and have passed via another animal species to humans at a wildlife and seafood market in Wuhan, although a firm determination has yet to be made.
Allegations about a leak of the virus from the lab have been made in the U.S. media without direct evidence, and President Trump has vowed to suspend funding for the World Health Organization, partly because of what he claims is its pro-China bias.