NEW YORK/TOKYO -- The World Health Organization and other global institutions are essential to fighting the new coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a Group of Seven leaders videoconference on Thursday, a position that was echoed in a group statement released after the meeting.
"We fully support the World Health Organization in its global mandate to lead on disease outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, leaving no geographical vacuum, and encourage all countries, international organizations, and the private sector to assist global efforts," the statement read.
The G-7 statement came after U.S. President Donald Trump froze funding to the organization on Tuesday, arguing that a review was necessary to see whether it was adequately fulfilling its responsibilities.
In contrast to Trump, Merkel on Thursday "expressed ... full support to the WHO," and emphasized that "the pandemic can only be overcome with a strong and coordinated international response," according to a statement from the chancellor's office.
She also gave support for a debt moratorium for developing countries agreed on at a Group of 20 meeting of finance officials on Wednesday.
The White House announced later on Thursday that the leaders of the G-7 had agreed at the videoconference on Thursday to request that the WHO verify and reform its response to the new coronavirus. It criticized the organization, saying that most of the discussions concentrated on the WHO's response. "Transparency is lacking and poor response is repeated," it said.
As Germany and the U.S. clashed on their stances, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also highlighted the crucial role the WHO plays in the crisis. "There is a need for international coordination and the WHO is an important part of that collaboration and coordination. We recognize that there have been questions asked, but at the same time it is really important we stay coordinated as we move through this," he said.
According to the White House, the G-7 leaders will instruct relevant ministers to prepare to resume economic activity in a safe manner after the coronavirus crisis is over.
Upon restarting economic activity, it said G-7 countries should have stronger medical systems and more reliable supply chains.
According to the Japanese government, the G-7 leaders also discussed the importance of support to countries with weak medical systems such as those in Africa, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "the development and dissemination of therapeutic drugs are important." He expressed his intention to expand clinical research on Japan-developed influenza drug, Avigan.
Leading up to Thursday's video meeting, Trump bashed the WHO at a press briefing on Wednesday, saying the organization had initially opposed a travel ban to and from China.
"They didn't want to do it. They were angry that we did it," Trump said. "Took them a long time to realize what was going on, but I have a feeling they know exactly what was going on," he said, adding it was "tragic" that some other countries listened to the WHO and refrained from imposing travel bans.
"And you see what happened to Italy. You see what happened to Spain. You see what happened to France. WHO's guidance had failed to control their borders at a very crucial phase, quickly unleashing the contagion around the world. That was a horrible, tragic mistake."