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By Emma Farge
GENEVA, April 8 (Reuters) - World Health Organization officials on Wednesday denied that the body was "China-centric" and said that the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would put contributions on hold.
The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body which Trump said had issued bad advice during the new coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. contributions to WHO in 2019 exceeded $400 million, almost double the 2nd largest member state contribution. China, in contrast, contributed $44 million.
"We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding," Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Trump's remarks.
Dr Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, also defended the U.N. agency's relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak which began in Wuhan.
"It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this," he told reporters.
"This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically."
He also defended WHO recommendations to keep borders open, saying that China had worked very hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts and ensure they did not travel in order to contain the outbreak.
On Europe, Kluge described the outbreak of coronavirus there as "very concerning" and urged governments to give "very careful consideration" before relaxing measures to control its spread.
"A dramatic rise in cases across the Atlantic skews what remains a very concerning picture in Europe," he said. "We still have a long way to go in the marathon." (Reporting by Emma Farge; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jan Harvey and Alexandra Hudson)
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