Donald Trump seemingly contradicted his own claims about China’s lack of transparency surrounding Covid-19, saying he wished the country “would have told us earlier” before defending statements he made praising its response to the pandemic.
The president criticised China for what he described as a lack of transparency over its coronavirus outbreak, telling reporters during a press briefing on Saturday afternoon “I just wish they could’ve told us earlier” about the the virus that is believed to have originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, China.
“All of the people — the talent that we have — would have loved to have had three or four months of additional time,” Mr Trump said at the White House. “They didn’t have that time. They read about it in the newspapers like everybody else.”
He added: “China was very secretive. Very, very secretive. And that’s unfortunate.”
But the president’s tone was much different in late January, as one reporter in the room noted, who asked why he tweeted on 24 January: “China has been working very hard to contain the virus. The US greatly appreciates their transparency. It will all work out well.”
Mr Trump said he posted that tweet — four days after the US confirmed its first case of the novel virus — “because it’s true”, adding: “They were transparent at that time.”
“I have great respect for that country,” he added, “but I wish they … would have told us earlier.”
The president has taken aim at China in recent weeks over the global pandemic, calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” despite the term’s controversial connotations.
While he has continued those attacks amid the surge of US and international cases, Mr Trump also credited China for having “worked very hard” to get its outbreak under control.
“China’s not a beneficiary here,” he said. “China has lost thousands, thousands of people. China has gone through hell over this.”
Reports indicated that US intelligence officials were aware of and had been warning about a potential oncoming pandemic from January and February, as life in Washington and across the country remained virtually unaffected by the virus.
It was not until 13 March when Mr Trump declared a national emergency to help combat the spread of the coronavirus nationwide. States throughout the US have meanwhile forced bars and restaurants to shutter to the public and tens of millions of Americans are ordered to stay home.