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Trump: Coronavirus pandemic worse for US than Pearl Harbour, 9/11

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As country's death toll nears 72,000, US President again blames China

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the coronavirus pandemic has been worse for the US than Pearl Harbour and 9/11 and renewed his criticism of China, saying the outbreak should have been stopped there.

Mr Trump said fallout from the pandemic has hit the US harder than the Dec 7, 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour or the Sept 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

"This is really the worst attack we've ever had," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

"This is worse than Pearl Harbour. This is worse than the World Trade Centre."

The surprise Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbour naval base in Hawaii drew the US into World War II.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks killed about 3,000 people, triggering two decades of US wars and anti-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

Mr Trump also lashed out at China, continuing a war of words over the origins of the deadly virus that emerged in Wuhan last year.

"It should have never happened," he said. "Could have been stopped at the source. Could have been stopped in China."

So far, nearly 72,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 and the former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention predicted on Wednesday that the toll in the US was on track to top 100,000 by the end of May.


Dr Tom Frieden warned US lawmakers to brace for a "long and difficult" war against the virus and urged dramatically expanding testing to rein in the pandemic.

"Until we have an effective vaccine, unless something unexpected happens, our viral enemy will be with us for many months or years," Dr Frieden said.

The pandemic has killed more than 260,000 people globally and officially infected nearly 3.7 million, although with limited testing the number is believed to be far higher.

Mr Trump also said his coronavirus task force would shift its primary focus to reviving US business and social life, while acknowledging that reopening the economy could put more lives at risk.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said the White House task force he formed in March would not wind down, as he suggested on Tuesday, but would instead add some advisers and centre its attention on "SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN".

Mr Trump changed his mind after the reaction to his Tuesday announcement showed how popular the task force was, he said.

Asked later if Americans will have to accept that reopening will lead to more deaths, Mr Trump told reporters: "You have to be warriors. We can't keep our country closed down for years and we have to do something. Hopefully that won't be the case, but it could very well be the case."

Governors have faced mounting pressure to ease stay-at-home orders and mandatory business closures.

Public health experts warn of a new surge in cases if reopenings occur without vastly expanded diagnostic screening and a system to trace who has been in contact with newly infected patients so they are also isolated and tested.

University of Washington researchers on Monday revised their model to project nearly 135,000 US coronavirus deaths by early August, almost double their previous forecast. - REUTERS, AFP