US President Donald Trump has vowed not to hold off campaign rallies despite coronavirus spreading across the United States.
“We will have tremendous rallies and we're doing very well, and we’ve done a fantastic job with respect to that subject,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort ahead of a sit-down with Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro on Sunday, when asked if he would halt the campaign.
The pneumonia-like virus, designated COVID-19 by the World Health Organisation, has infected over 105,000 people globally and killed more than 3,500 as of Sunday, mostly at the epicentre in mainland China. Some of the other worst-hit regions are Italy, South Korea and Iran.
The United States has registered over 500 cases and 22 deaths from COVID-19. The first case was confirmed in Washington DC, the nation’s capital, on Sunday – a reverend in his 50s with an underlying health condition, who does not appear to have travelled abroad or had close contacts with anyone known to be sick.
Virus fears have affected major events in the US like music shows, sports competitions and several large-scale tech conferences such as Google Cloud Next and I/O, Facebook’s F8, and SXSW. Meanwhile, both Trump and the Democratic presidential hopefuls keep holding rallies.
Trump, who has repeatedly downplayed concerns over the outbreak, had six ones last month. His website shows there are no rallies announced in the coming weeks, however.
The virus “doesn’t bother me at all,” Trump said on Saturday when pressed on whether he felt it was a risk to have crowds of people come together at his rallies.
The president has been criticised for his administration’s handling of the virus. The Associated Press on Sunday cited a federal official as claiming that the White House had overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that the elderly and physically vulnerably be advised not to fly on commercial airlines.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention specifically advise older people, as well as those with underlying health conditions, against going out. A spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the AP story as “complete fiction.”
Eaerlier Trump claimed that anyone who needs a coronavirus test can get one, although a number of reports suggested that this wasn’t the case. Another troubling episode related to the Grand Princess, a cruise ship with more than 3500 on board where 21 passengers have tested positive for COVID-19. The ship is currently circling international waters off San Francisco Bay, after Trump refused to let it dock so that US coronavirus numbers don’t “double.”