Washington: The deadly coronavirus attack on the US is worse than that of Pearl Harbour and 9/11, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday.
"We went through the worst attack we have ever had in our country. This is really the worst attack we have ever had. This is worse than Pearl Harbour. This is worse than the World Trade Center. There has never been an attack like this," he told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House during a meeting with nurses.
At another White House event, when reporters asked him about his comments earlier that likened COVID-19 to the Pearl Harbour and September 11, 2001 attacks, Trump said, "I view the invisible enemy as a war. I do not like how it got here, because it could have been stopped, but no, I view the invisible enemy like a war."
"Hey, it has killed more people than Pearl Harbour. And it has killed more people than the World Trade Center. The World Trade Center was close to 3,000. Well, we are gonna beat that by many times, unfortunately. So, yeah. We view it as a war," he added.
"This is a mobilisation against a war. In many ways, it is a tougher enemy. We do very well against the visible enemies. It is the invisible enemy. This is an invisible enemy. But we're doing a good job," the president said.
By Wednesday, more than 72,000 Americans had died due to COVID-19 and over 12 lakh tested positive for the disease. Because of preventive social-mitigation measures and complete shutting down of states and businesses, more than three crore people have applied for unemployment benefits.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank project the American economy into recession and according to the White House, the country is likely to experience a minus 15-20 per cent growth in the second quarter of the current financial year.
The number of daily deaths and fresh cases of infections have shown signs of decline and as a result, a large number of states have started opening up their economy.
Trump said the White House Task Force on Coronavirus has done a great job.
"We will be leaving the task force indefinitely. We will see. You know at a certain point it will end. Things end, but we will be adding some people to the task force," he said.
"I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down. I get calls from very respected people, saying, 'I think it would be better to keep it going, it's done such a good job.' It is a respected task force. I know it myself. I did not know whether or not it was appreciated by the public, but it is appreciated by the public," the president added.
Trump said he would like to see schools open, wherever possible. "I would say that until everything is perfect, I think that the teachers that are a certain age -- perhaps you say over 60, especially if they have a problem with heart or diabetes or any one of a number of things — I think that they should not be teaching in schools for a while. And everybody would understand that probably. That we understand," he said.
"But other than that, we see how well children seem to do. Incredible. You realise how strong children are, right? Their immune system is maybe a little bit different, maybe just a little bit stronger. Or maybe it is a lot stronger, right? Could be a lot stronger. We have learned a lot by watching this monster," the president said. He also lauded nurses for their "valiant sacrifices".
Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, who works in New Orleans, was somewhat off message when Trump got most of his guests to nod in agreement that hospitals now have plenty of masks, gowns etc.
"Certainly there are pockets of areas where PPE is not ideal, but this is an unprecedented time and the infection control measures that we learned back when we went to school — one gown, one mask for one patient a day or for a time — this is a different time. I have been reusing my N95 mask for a few weeks now. I just broke out a new one to come here, in case I needed to wear it," Thomas said.
The president put a particular spotlight on Luke Adams, a nurse who has volunteered to work in New York City. "The men and women in this room today are true American heroes. Luke Adams is a nurse of 11 years. He lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania — good place. When he heard the call of volunteers in New York, Luke drove to the epicentre of the outbreak and slept in his car for nine days, so he could help care for the sick," Trump said.
"A lot of us have been forced away from our partners, turned away from our children. We have slept on concrete floors or in cars. And we did these things not for our own benefit or safety," Adams said.