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WHO members agree on COVID-19 strategy

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Any future vaccine and medication for the novel coronavirus must be made available cheaply to the world "as a global priority," World Health Organization members (WHO) agreed on Tuesday in a meeting that was overshadowed by US threats to leave the agency.

In an annual meeting that was held online, WHO member countries adopted a resolution that "calls for the universal, timely and equitable access to and fair distribution" of medical products to fight the coronavirus disease Covid-19.

The WHO members also called on the pharmaceutical industry and others involved in research and development to share and pool their patents.

Hours before the resolution was passed, US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently pull funding from the WHO, and to consider a US exit from the UN health agency if it does not commit to "major substantive improvements" within 30 days.

In a four-page letter to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump set out what he called "repeated missteps" by the organisation.

Trump claimed that the WHO shares responsibility for the large number of deaths in the Covid-19 crisis. He charged that mismanagement on the part of the WHO and reliance on information from China had dramatically worsened the epidemic and spread it globally.

Washington provides between $US400 million and $US500 million a year to the WHO budget of nearly $US3 billion.

Leading medical journal The Lancet rejected Trump's assertion that the WHO had ignored its reports from late 2019.

"This statement is factually incorrect," the Lancet said in a message, noting that its first reports were published on January 24.

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