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Foreign minister hits out at Trump’s ‘indefensible decision’ to halt WHO funding

Simon Coveney said the undermining of vital funding and trust was shocking.

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Donald Trump and Simon Coveney (Liam McBurney/Jacob King/PA)

Donald Trump and Simon Coveney (Liam McBurney/Jacob King/PA)

Donald Trump and Simon Coveney (Liam McBurney/Jacob King/PA)

Ireland’s foreign minister has criticised Donald Trump after he said he is freezing US payments to the World Health Organisation pending a review of its warnings about coronavirus and China.

The US president said the Covid-19 outbreak could have been contained at its source with lives spared had the UN health agency done a better job investigating reports coming out of China.

The United States contributed nearly $900 million (823 million euro) to the WHO’s budget for 2018-19, according to information on the agency’s website.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy leader and Foreign Affairs Minister, tweeted that Mr Trump withholding funding was an “indefensible decision” in the midst of a pandemic.

He wrote: “So many vulnerable populations rely on WHO – deliberately undermining funding and trust now is shocking.

“Now is a time for global leadership and unity to save lives, not division and blame.”

It comes as Minister for Communication Richard Bruton confirmed that Ireland’s major telecoms providers have committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Providers including BT Ireland, eir, Pure Telecom, Sky Ireland, Tesco Mobile Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone have signed up.

Mr Bruton said: “Now, more than ever, people are relying on online services to stay in touch with family, friends and work colleagues.

“These commitments will make sure that all major providers are responding to this increased reliance, providing extra capacity where needed and ensuring people have the services they need to stay connected.

“These are common commitments and some operators may choose to offer extra services to their customers.”

The Covid-19 Consumer Commitments are:

– Any fixed broadband customers who do not have unlimited usage already as standard will be given the opportunity, if they require, to upgrade their package (which may be on a temporary basis) with their current service provider;

– Any customer who does not have fixed broadband and who relies solely on mobile access to the internet will have the opportunity to avail of affordable unlimited mobile data access/package from their service provider;

– Fair usage policies will not be automatically applied to unlimited fixed and mobile data packages;

– Service providers may implement appropriate permitted traffic management measures to avoid network congestion;

– Access to healthcare and educational resource websites identified by the Government will be zero-rated for all customers where technically feasible;

– So that customers can remain connected during the crisis, service providers will engage with any customer that contacts them who is in financial difficulty as a result of Covid-19 and has difficulty paying their bills to agree the best way of keeping them connected to voice and data;

– Service providers will work with ComReg in the event of complaints raised to ComReg by consumers, who consider they are not being treated in accordance with these commitments.

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