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Trump threatens to defund WHO as US coronavirus deaths surge past 12,800

US President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to cut US funding to the World Health Organization, accusing it of bias toward China, where the authorities lifted a two-and-a-half month travel ban on Wuhan, the city that spawned the global coronavirus pandemic.

The United States suffered a record total 1,939 deaths in the past 24 hours, with New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus reaching 4,009, surpassing the fatalities in the city on 9/11.

More than 12,800 Americans have now died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University, and with nearly 400,000 cases the country has the most in the world.

China reported no new deaths for the first time since the outbreak began in Wuhan in late December.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in stable condition in intensive care in a London hospital, meanwhile, after being admitted on Monday, 10 days after being diagnosed with the virus.

His spokesman said the 55-year-old Conservative leader was in “good spirits,” was receiving “standard oxygen treatment” and has not required a ventilator.

The shocking hospitalization of a high-profile world leader underscored the global reach of COVID-19, which has put more than four billion people — over half of the planet — on some form of lockdown, upending societies and battering economies worldwide.

Amid warnings that worse is yet to come, death tolls mounted from the virus that has now claimed more than 82,000 lives and infected more than 1.4 million people worldwide.

In Washington, Trump told reporters that he was “going to put a very powerful hold” on funding to the WHO, the UN body whose biggest contributor is the US, accusing it of being “very biased towards China.”

“They called it wrong,” he said of a WHO travel warning on China. “They could have called it months earlier.”

Trump gave no details about how much money would be withheld and minutes later he said he would only “look at ending funding.”

China faces criticism over the way it handled the initial virus outbreak and Trump and others have expressed doubt over the accuracy of Chinese statistics for cases and deaths.

Trump himself has been widely criticized for initially downplaying the virus, which he likened to an ordinary flu before later acknowledging it was a national emergency.

One of the main models on the outbreak, from the University of Washington, is projecting about 82,000 US deaths through early August, with the highest number on April 16.

China lifted a travel ban on Tuesday on residents of Wuhan and reported no new deaths, but the situation remained grim elsewhere.

While other major cities around the world remained locked down, thousands of people rushed to leave Wuhan.

Train service and flights resumed and roadblocks were removed, prompting an exodus of some 65,000 residents wearing protective clothing and masks.

China’s National Health Commission said Tuesday that no new deaths had been logged in the preceding 24 hours, the first fatality-free day since the country began publishing figures in January.

China’s official tally is some 81,000 overall infections and more than 3,300 deaths but there are suspicions Beijing has under-reported the real numbers.

Britain reported 786 new deaths and New York state saw 731 in 24 hours, after Spain, France and Italy all recorded new surges in fatalities.

New research showed Britain’s toll on a steeper trajectory than other nations and predicted as many as 66,000 deaths by July, far more than in Italy, which has the highest fatalities to date — 17,127.

Paris on Tuesday banned daytime jogging to keep people from bending anti-coronavirus lockdown rules as France breached 10,000 deaths.

“We are in the epidemic’s ascendant stage… we have not yet reached the peak,” said France’s national health director, Jerome Salomon.

There were 597 fatalities in French hospitals since Monday.

Over 30,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide, with 7,131 in intensive care.

But there were glimmers of hope in the statistics.

Spain, with 14,045 dead, said its downward trend in new infections and deaths was continuing and that increases in fatalities on Monday and Tuesday were the result of weekend deaths being tallied.

Eduardo Fernandez, a 39-year-old nurse at Madrid’s Infanta Sofia Hospital, said there had been fewer admissions in recent days.

“But we remain much above our usual capacity,” he cautioned. “I don’t know if my colleagues who are in the eye of the storm are able to see [the decrease] because the work pressure is very high.”

Iran’s parliament convened for the first time since late February as the country reported a drop in new infections for the seventh straight day.

In New York, the epicenter of the US outbreak, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state appeared be nearing the peak of its pandemic but urged New Yorkers to continue staying indoors.

“I know it’s hard but we have to keep doing it,” he said.

The state has been recording more than 500 deaths a day since late last week. The number of confirmed cases — which does not include infected people who have not been tested — is close to 139,000 statewide. The state’s total number of coronavirus deaths, 5,489, now far eclipses its fatalities on 9/11, which killed 2,753 people in New York City.

New York City recorded its first coronavirus death on March 13, less than two weeks after confirming its first infection.

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that if Americans continue to practice social distancing for the rest of April, “we will be able to get back to some sense of normalcy.”

Despite stay-at-home orders, voters in another US state, Wisconsin, went to the polls to cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary and local elections after partisan bickering shut down a plan to delay the vote.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel showed a mask-wearing woman in line to vote holding a sign bearing the message: “THIS IS RIDICULOUS.”

Governments are scrambling to put together rescue packages to stem the economic damage from effectively shutting down global commerce, as fears loom of a devastating recession.

The UN’s International Labour Organization said 81 percent of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people are now affected by “the worst global crisis since the Second World War.”

Japan, which declared a month-long state of emergency on Tuesday, has promised a $1-trillion stimulus package and Trump said he favors another massive US spending program, this time targeting infrastructure projects.

EU finance ministers were working on a deal to use the eurozone’s 410-billion-euro ($447 billion) bailout fund to fight the virus but the bloc remains divided on pooling debt to issue “coronabonds.”

Trump on Tuesday removed Glenn Fine, the inspector general who was chosen to oversee the $2.2 trillion stimulus package aimed at mitigating the massive economic damage caused by the pandemic.

Fine had been selected by a panel of inspectors general to head the congressionally mandated oversight body created as part of the stimulus law passed last month. It was unclear who would replace him in his oversight role.

Stock markets were up across Asia and Europe. On Wall Street, a strong rally propelled by signs that the outbreak may be leveling off in some hard-hit parts of the world evaporated after the price of crude oil suddenly fell on Tuesday afternoon. Stocks ended the day slightly lower.

The EU announced it would put up 15 billion euros to help developing countries fight the epidemic, which is only starting to spread in some of the world’s poorest countries.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia. About 300,000 people have recovered worldwide, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

Header: Paramedics take a patient into emergency center during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 7, 2020. © REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid