Coronavirus: Trump says US epidemic is worse than ‘Pearl Harbour or 9/11’

The president also backtracked on his plan to wind down the coronavirus task force

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks before signing a proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has hit the United States harder than Pearl Harbour in World War II or the 9/11 attacks.

"This is worse than Pearl Harbour. This is worse than the World Trade Center. And it should have never happened," he told reporters at the White House.

The surprise Japanese attack in 1941 on the Pearl Harbour naval base in Hawaii drew the United States into World War II. 2403 people died in the attack.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks killed about 3,000 people, mostly in the World Trade Centre in New York, triggering two decades of US wars and anti-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

Mr Trump on Wednesday also reversed course on plans to wind down his Covid-19 task force, attempting to balance his enthusiasm for “reopening” the country with rising infection rates in parts of the nation.

The US President on Wednesday also reversed course on plans to wind down his Covid-19 task force, attempting to balance his enthusiasm for “reopening” the country with rising infection rates in parts of the nation.

Mr Trump appears intent on persuading Americans to accept the price of some lives lost as restrictions are eased, concerned about skyrocketing unemployment and intent on encouraging an economic rebound ahead of the November election. However, Democrats have criticised the president re-opening strategy as well as how his administration has handled the virus, which has killed more people in the US than any other country – more than 71,000 have died from it and there are over 1.2 million known cases.

But on Wednesday, the US leader said the White House task force of experts and senior government officials would continue after all, indefinitely, with its focus shifting toward rebooting the economy and the development of a vaccine.

“I thought we could wind it down sooner,” Mr Trump said, adding, “I had no idea how popular the task force is.”

“The Task Force will continue on indefinitely.” He added that the White House “may add or subtract people to it, as appropriate. The Task Force will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics,” Mr Trump said in a tweet.

On Tuesday, the president visited a mask factory in Arizona, but did not follow advice and wear a mask.

A former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevenion struck a less optimistic than Mr Trump did on Wednesday.

Dr Tom Frieden testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill that the “war against Covid will be long and difficult.”

“We’re just at the beginning of this pandemic and must focus on the future,” he testified, predicting there will be 100,000 deaths by the end of the month. As bad as the crisis has been, he said, “it’s just the beginning.”

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