Today, world leaders reacted to US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) – while closer to home the focus was on care homes, with the government announcing new rules for visiting dying relatives.
Trump said he was suspending funding because the WHO had botched its handling of the coronavirus crisis (not mentioning that as late as 28 February he was labelling the pandemic a “hoax”). Condemnation, some of it coded, came from all sides: Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney called the decision “indefensible”; EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said there was “no reason justifying this move”; German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “blaming others won’t help”; and UN chief António Guterres said now was “not the time” to reduce the WHO’s resources. WHO Director General Adhanom Ghebreyesus merely said the organisation regretted the decision, calling the US a “longstanding and generous friend”, while the UK government refused to criticise the move.
The New Statesman’s US editor Emily Tamkin has the full analysis here, where she argues that Trump is scapegoating the WHO to disguise his own blunders.
Here in the UK, it was revealed that a quarter of coronavirus deaths in Scotland happen in care homes, while care home providers again argued deaths in their residences were being underestimated by the government. The chief executive of Four Seasons Health Care, one of Britain’s largest independent providers, told Sky News today that as many as 70 per cent of nursing homes may have cases of coronavirus infection.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock used this afternoon’s coronavirus briefing to announce that new rules would ensure people could visit dying relatives in care homes “wherever possible”, although he did not give more detail. If you can consider it a policy announcement, then it was the second of the day: earlier, the government extended the cut-off date for its grant scheme for furloughed workers, which it said would make “thousands” more workers eligible for payment.
If you’re after something completely different, read why literary critic and former arts editor of the New Statesman Alice O’Keeffe’s is feeling at peace during the lockdown, or why New Statesman’s senior sub-editor Indra Warnes can’t stop watching Stacey Solomon’s Instagram Stories.