WASHINGTON, April 8, 2020 (AFP) - 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.
As the United States suffered a record total of nearly 2,000 deaths in the past 24 hours, China reported no new deaths for the first time since the outbreak began in Wuhan in late December.
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 accepting it was a national emergency.
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.
A record total of 1,939 people died in the United States in the 24 hours up to Tuesday evening.