Donald Trump says pandemic ‘will probably get worse before it gets better’

During first briefing in two months US president urges Americans to wear facemasks

US president Donald Trump speaks during the renewed briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force . Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP   via Getty Images

US president Donald Trump speaks during the renewed briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force . Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump has urged Americans to wear facemasks, the latest pivot by the president on the coronavirus pandemic as polls show his approval ratings over his handling of the virus have plummeted.

In the first coronavirus briefing in the White House in more than two months, Mr Trump said that the coronavirus pandemic “will probably get worse before it gets better” - a big departure from his previous upbeat assertions that the virus was under control.

Mr Trump disbanded the daily briefings in May shortly after suggesting in one briefing that ingesting disinfectant could be a cure for coronavirus.

Up to 140,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, and more than 3 million cases have been reported. While southern states like Florida, Texas and Arizona have seen a steep rise in cases in recent weeks, other states like Alabama and Nevada have been reporting higher infection rates.

Mr Trump, who previously accused a reporter of trying to be “politically correct” by wearing a mask in the White House briefing room, said on Tuesday: “when you are not able to socially distance, get a mask, wear a mask, whether you like the mask or not.”

Earlier this week he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask for the first time, describing it as an act of “patriotism,” though he did not wear a mask at a Republican party fundraiser he attended in the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Monday night.

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Reading from a pre-prepared script, he said that “vaccines are coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible,” noting that the military was on hand to begin distributing vaccines once they are approved.

“The China virus is a vicious and dangerous illness but we’ve learned a great deal about it and who it targets.” He urged younger people in particular to avoid bars and socialising, noting that the highest number of cases was occurring in the 18-35 age group.

Asked if he would accept a vaccine from China, the country he has repeatedly blamed for the coronavirus outbreak, he said: “We’re willing to work with anybody who is able to get us a good result.”

But he also insisted that America - which has the highest number of cases in the world - was not alone, accusing the media of only focusing on America’s high coronavirus numbers.

“The world is suffering. The fact is that many countries are suffering very very very badly,” he said, adding “we’ve done much better than most.”

“We are doing a tremendous amount of testing,” he added, noting that he had stopped arrivals from China in January. “We did a lot of things right.”

A Washington Post-ABC poll released over the weekend showed that only 38 per cent of respondents approve of Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic - a twenty eight point drop from March.

With November’s presidential election less than four months away, Mr Trump’s rival Joe Biden has opened a double-digit lead over Mr Trump who is running for a second term.

Asked about his apparent change of tone on the coronavirus pandemic, he said he had “always agreed” with social distancing. He also contradicted an earlier statement by press secretary Kaleigh McEnany that he was tested several times a day, instead saying he was testing every second day on average.

The press conference took place as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier today said that the number of people infected was much higher than had been reported.