Photo taken on Jan. 22, 2020 shows an exterior view of the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO on Wednesday night extended to Thursday its emergency talks on whether the novel coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Xinhua/Liu Qu)

The U.S. decision to quit the World Health Organization (WHO) violates U.S. law and put its health and security at risk, according to a comment published on The Lancet’s website Wednesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May that his country would sever ties with the WHO and terminate funding for this organization. On Monday, the United States notified the United Nations secretary-general of its withdrawal from the WHO.

The U.S. exit is unlawful, “because it does not have express approval of Congress to leave WHO,” the article said, quoting a Supreme Court precedent as saying that “when the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at the lowest ebb.”

Departure from the WHO “would have dire consequences for U.S. security, diplomacy and influence,” the comment pointed out. Noting that U.S. agencies, pharmaceutical corporations and labs depend on the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework to get new influenza virus samples for research and development, it said the withdrawal could make it difficult for the country worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to develop biological countermeasures to influenza, as the novel coronavirus, besides seasonal influenza, will pose a serious challenge for health system capacities worldwide this autumn.

More than 100 countries have joined the Solidarity trial for COVID-19 treatments launched by the WHO, which also leads the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator for COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

“Americans could have limited access to scarce vaccine supplies and are likely to be barred from travel to foreign destinations,” as a result of the withdrawal, the comment said.

After leaving the WHO, “absent treaty obligations, in a multipolar world, mean there are no guarantees that countries will cooperate with the USA,” it said. “The USA cannot cut ties with WHO without incurring major disruption and damage, making Americans far less safe,” the comment warned.

As for U.S. politicians’ blame on WHO for not investigating the COVID-19 outbreak in China and their buck-passing and criticism of China’s supposed early COVID-19-related failings, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet tweeted Wednesday that “Indeed. China should not be ‘blamed.’

In my view, we should thank Chinese scientists and health workers for their incredibly selfless commitment to attacking this outbreak. They deserve our unconditional gratitude.”

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