Trump urges coronavirus patients to take anti-malaria drug
He backs untested medicine as US braces for big spike in Covid-19 deaths
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump doubled down on his support for a drug that is still being tested to treat the coronavirus, saying he might take the medicine himself and encouraging others with doctor approval to do the same.
Mr Trump's optimistic comments on Saturday about the benefits of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 reflected his tendency to put a positive spin on an issue even as data was still being gathered, Reuters reported.
"I may take it," Mr Trump said. "I'll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it."
Though advisers, including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have cautioned many times that more data is needed on hydroxychloroquine, Mr Trump went so far as to urge patients to take it, the New York Times reported.
"What do you have to lose? Take it," the president said.
"I really think they should take it. But it's their choice. And it's their doctor's choice or the doctors in the hospital... Try it, if you'd like."
During the briefing, as Dr Fauci and other advisers looked on, the president talked about the potential of other medicines too. He mentioned azithromycin, often referred to as Z-Pak, which has been given to some patients along with hydroxychloroquine.
"The other thing, if you have a heart condition, I understand, probably you stay away from the Z-Pak. But that's an antibiotic. It can clean out the lung. The lungs are a point of attack for this horrible virus."
Mr Trump also told Americans to brace for a big spike in deaths in the coming days, as the country faces what he called the toughest two weeks of the pandemic.
He pushed back on criticism that the federal government had not done enough to get ventilators that many critically ill coronavirus patients need to survive, saying some governors were asking for more machines than they would need.
"Fears of shortages have led to inflated requests," Mr Trump said of submissions his administration have received to dole out equipment from the strategic national stockpile.
Even as top doctors emphasised the importance and effectiveness of social distancing measures, Mr Trump again seemed to chafe at their impact on the economy.
"We're not going to destroy our country," he said. "We cannot let this continue, so at a certain point some hard decisions are going to have to be made."
The US has the world's highest number of known cases of Covid-19. More than 306,000 people have tested positive and more than 8,300 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
Globally, there have been more than 1.20 million cases, with about 65,000 deaths, according to AFP's tally.
In the grimmest day yet for New York, the US state hardest hit by the pandemic, 630 people died, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The disease has now killed 3,565 people in New York and the situation is particularly worrying on Long Island where the number of cases "is like a fire spreading", Mr Cuomo said.
"We're not yet at the apex, we're getting closer... Our reading of the projections is we're somewhere in the seven-day range," he added.
"It's only been 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime."
He announced that the Chinese government facilitated a donation of 1,000 ventilators.
"This is a big deal and it's going to make a significant difference for us," Mr Cuomo said.