Trump sows confusion with claim coronavirus drug will be ready soon – The Guardian,

Trump sows confusion with claim coronavirus drug will be ready soon – The Guardian,

Donald Trump has sown fresh confusion about the US government response to the coronavirus pandemic by claiming that a therapeutic drug will be available “almost immediately” – only to be contradicted by officials.

In a worryingly rambling performance at Thursday’s White House press conference, the president asserted that chloroquine, used to combat malaria, had been approved and would be made available by prescription.

“They’re doing great with the vaccines but there’s still a long process, but the therapies are something we can move on much faster potentially,” he told reporters. “And the treatments that will be able to reduce the severity or duration of the symptoms – make people better.

“Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, this is a common malaria drug. It’s also a drug used for strong arthritis … It’s been around for a long time, so we know if things don’t go as planned it’s not going to kill anybody … It’s shown very, very encouraging early results, and we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. ”

But minutes later, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, cautioned that in fact chloroquine has not been approved for use against the coronavirus and must still be tested for its effectiveness and safety.

Chloroquine “is already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria as well as arthritis condition”, Hahn pointed out. “That’s a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done to actually see if that benefits patients.

“And again, we want to do that in a setting of a clinical trial, a large pragmatic clinical trial to actually gather that information and answer that question that needs to be asked and answered.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday 18, 500 cases of coronavirus, an increase of 3, from its previous count. The death toll rose by 90 to , it said, the biggest one-day jump so far.

The Trump administration has been widely condemned for its sluggish response, particularly to testing kits and medical equipment. Mike Pence told the briefing, without providing data: “Tens of thousands of tests are being performed every day.” Earlier this month, the CDC said around 2, 823 tests were being performed daily .

The vice-president also claimed that companies have hugely increased their production of protective industrial masks and many construction companies are donating their stocks to hospitals. Medical workers have decried the widespread lack of protective equipment.

Trump, who built his political career on his ability to steward the economy, is now fighting to rescue it from a once in a generation catastrophe. Last week the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 404, .

Trump signed an aid package , which the Senate approved earlier on Wednesday, that will guarantee free testing, paid sick leave to workers who fall ill, family leave for caregivers and food assistance for those in need.

Asked if he would support the federal government moving to take an equity stake in companies that need bailouts, Trump replied: “I do. I really do. ”

He added: “We will be helping the airline industry . We will be helping the cruise ship industry. We probably will be helping the hotel industry… There’s a lot of executive power. If we don’t have to use it, that would be a good thing, not a bad thing. ”

Trump also took a swipe at China, where the virus was first reported, musing: “If people would have known about it, could have been stopped in place, it could have been stopped where it came from, China. ”

This prompted criticism from his presumptive rival in the presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden. His campaign said in statement: “The reality is, he did know about it and experts spent months trying to prompt Trump into action as he downplayed the growing threat of the virus and praised the Chinese government bungled early response – at a time when Vice- President Biden warned him not to take their word about the disease.

“Now, as this crisis explodes on his watch, Trump is desperately lashing out to try to cover up his incompetence and mismanagement.”

In a series of bizarre riffs, Trump described social distancing as a “hot term” now and chastised reporters for sitting too close together. He railed against the media for failing to give him credit for banning travel from China. “I got a [coronavirus] test because you people were driving everybody crazy,” he said.

Trump has been condemned for using the xenophobic term “Chinese virus”. In a profoundly weird finale, a reporter from the pro-Trump One America News Network asked: “Mr President, do you consider the term ‘Chinese food’ to be racist because it is food that originated from China?”

He answered: “I don’t think that’s racist at all.”

Unusually, Trump is not thought to have made contact with the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi , the architect of his impeachment last year. Instead he has delegated negotiations to the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who is said to have established a working relationship with Pelosi.

On Thursday the Senate began work on a $ 1tn-plus package to stem the economic fallout of the pandemic. The majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the bill would include direct financial assistance to Americans, lending to key industries including airlines and money for more medical equipment.

“These are not ordinary policies. This is no ordinary time, ”McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We have to beat back this virus.”

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