Washington DC, May 3 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States on Sunday expressed confidence that the country would have a vaccine against COVID-19 by the end of the year and revised up the number of deaths that the disease will cause in the US up to a minimum of 80,000.
“We are very confident we’re going to have a vaccine at the end of the year, by the end of the year,” Donald Trump said in a “virtual” town hall, hosted by Fox News Channel.
So far, US government health experts had cited January 2021 as the earliest date a coronavirus vaccine might be available, and Trump said doctors would prefer that he not say anything more optimistic.
“I’ll say what I think … I think we’re going to have a vaccine much sooner rather than later,” he said, without clarifying why, beyond citing his conversations with the heads of companies involved in vaccine development.
Asked if he wanted the US to develop the vaccine before any other country, the US president replied, “I don’t care, I just want to get a vaccine that works,” adding “if it’s another country I’ll take my hat off.”
“We’re so far ahead of any vaccine ever in history,” he stressed.
The president also revised his prediction of the number of deaths that the coronavirus will cause in the US given that the estimate of 60,000 deaths he had declared on Apr. 20 has already been overcome as the death toll now exceeds 67,000.
“I used to say 65,000. Now I’m saying 80 [thousand] or 90 [thousand], and it goes up and it goes up rapidly,” said Trump, whose projection exceeds the death toll projection of 72,400 made this week by the University of Washington.
Trump acknowledged that perhaps 90,000 deaths could not be called being “successful” in the fight against coronavirus but said it was preferable to the million or 2 million deaths there would have been without measures restricting movement.
The president also rejected media reports that he ignored several intelligence agencies’ warnings about the severity of the coronavirus in January and February.
He said that on Monday, the country’s intelligence agencies will issue a statement backing his version that it was not until Jan. 23 that they told him “there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import.”
“It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed down the country to China and we had 21 people in the room. I was the only one that wanted to close it down,” he added.
He also claimed that Italy had been so badly affected by the pandemic because many Chinese who wanted to travel to the US went to Europe instead after he imposed travel restrictions on China on Jan. 31 even though the Italian government had closed air traffic from China three days before that.
Trump’s “virtual” meeting with voters, who sent him video questions, was aimed at reinforcing the impression that the White House’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the country has been effective, exactly six months before Trump goes up for re-election in November.
Sitting in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln during the event, Trump said – in a reference to media – that he had been “treated worse” than the former US president, who was assassinated in 1865.
Trump also claimed not to be concerned that the November elections would turn into a referendum on his management of the coronavirus crisis, saying that he has done a good job in leading the “biggest mobilization since World War II.”
He predicted a recovery by the economy next year with a “transition” in the third quarter of 2020 and a “good” fourth quarter and hoped to be able to resume his campaign rallies in the last two months before the November election.
Trump said that Americans should be able to return to work soon but added that those who were scared to do so could “stay back” at home.”
“I really believe that you can go to parks, you can go to beaches .?.?. [if] you stay away a certain amount,” he said. EFE-EPA