US president again criticises Beijing as European countries prepare to ease lockdown
Donald Trump has said he is “very confident” there will be a vaccine for coronavirus by the end of the year, revising up his estimate of the final US death toll as several European countries prepare for a cautious easing of lockdowns.
The president used a Fox News “virtual town hall” on Sunday night to repeat his regular virus talking points, including that a vaccine was not far away, Covid-19 was China’s fault and the economy would not only recover but “grow like crazy”.
“We are very confident we are going to have a vaccine by the end of the year,” Trump said. Scientists have repeatedly warned that a vaccine may take 12-18 months or longer.
Trump in April predicted 60,000 American lives would be lost but on Sunday said: “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing.”
Trump indicated that intelligence agencies would release further information on Monday about the virus but failed to give details. Asked why he didn’t act earlier on the epidemic, the president said that on 23 January he was in told in briefings there “could be a virus coming, but it was of no real import”.
“In other words, it wasn’t: ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation.”
His comments came amid reports that US officials believed China intentionally covered up the extent and severity of the virus while increasing its imports and decreasing exports of medical supplies.
The Associated Press said a four-page Department of Homeland Security intelligence report dated 1 May found China held off informing the World Health Organization (WHO) that the coronavirus was a contagion for much of January so it could order medical supplies from abroad, and that its imports of face masks and surgical gowns and gloves increased sharply.
Those conclusions were based on the 95% probability that China’s changes in import and export behaviour were not within normal range, the report said.