Trump to return to daily televised briefings on coronavirus

High viewer ratings lure US president back to screens as his poll popularity keeps falling

Us president Donald Trump: “It came from China.  It should have never been allowed to get out.” Photograph: Doug Mills/Getty

Us president Donald Trump: “It came from China.  It should have never been allowed to get out.” Photograph: Doug Mills/Getty

 

US president Donald Trump announced he is to resume daily coronavirus taskforce briefings at the White House, as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States continued to rise.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr Trump cited the televised briefings’ strong ratings as the reason he was bringing them back. “I was doing them and we had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching in the history of cable television. There’s never been anything like it,” he said. “It’s a great way to get information out to the public as to where we are with the vaccines, with the therapeutics.”

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

Since then, the coronavirus task force, headed by Dr Deborah Birx has been meeting privately, with vice-president Mike Pence holding a handful of press conferences.

The decision to resume the briefings – which saw Dr Birx and her colleague Dr Anthony Fauci take questions from reporters – comes as polling shows that Mr Trump’s disapproval rating is rising. 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 28-point drop from March.

Relief package

Mr Trump was speaking as he hosted a group of Republican senators and cabinet members at the White House for discussions on a new coronavirus relief package. Democrats in the House of Representatives proposed a $3 trillion package in May, but the Republican-led senate is said to be considering a more modest bill worth about $1 trillion.

Among the proposals under consideration by the White House and Senate Republicans is a plan to make federal funding for schools conditional on schools reopening in the autumn, a plan that is being resisted by many states. California announced last week most of its schools will only offer online teaching when they reopen next month. But education secretary Betsy DeVos has been pushing for schools to reopen.

Mr Trump also repeated his attacks on China as he met with the senators and cabinet members.

“It came from China.  It should have never been allowed to get out,” he said, referring to Covid-19. “They could have stopped it. They could have stopped it easily. They chose not to.” 

‘Tremendous problem’

He accused the media of only focusing on the United States when it comes to coronavirus cases, stating it is a “worldwide problem”. “When you watch the news, the local news, it’s, like, all about the United States. They never like to talk about what’s going on in the world. But you look at Mexico, Brazil, many countries in Europe, many countries . . . Russia. Russia has got a tremendous problem.”

At least 137,000 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, and more than three 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.

Meanwhile, New York governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to close bars and restaurants if establishments flout social distancing rules, following reports of large groups of people gathering over the weekend.

“We cannot allow those congregations to continue,” he said.

He also hit out at Mr Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, noting the high number of infections in southern states. “Their mistake is they listened to the president,” he said.