Donald Trump says the UK's initial response to coronavirus would have been 'catastrophic'

1 April 2020, 11:51

Donald Trump has said the UK's initial way to tackle coronavirus "would have been catastrophic"
Donald Trump has said the UK's initial way to tackle coronavirus "would have been catastrophic". Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Donald Trump has criticised the UK's initial response to the coronavirus as "catastrophic" as he warned Americans to brace themselves "for a very, very painful two weeks".

It was initially proposed by the UK government that a "herd immunity" strategy could beat the virus, and schools, workplaces were kept open while the rest of Europe shut down.

But it didn't take long for the country to follow suit, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown last week.

Speaking at the White House daily press briefing, Mr Trump said of the US response: "A lot of people were saying: 'Let's just ride it out'.

"This is not to be ridden out because then you would have been looking at potentially 2.2 million people (dying in the US) or more… in a relatively short period of time.

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Mr Trump was uncharacteristically somber as he warned Americans to be prepared for a "very, very painful two weeks"
Mr Trump was uncharacteristically somber as he warned Americans to be prepared for a "very, very painful two weeks". Picture: PA

"If you remember, they were looking at that concept - I guess it's a concept if you don't mind death, a lot of death - but they were looking at that in the UK, remember.

"All of sudden they went hard the other way because they started seeing things that weren't good. They put themselves in a little bit of a problem.

"They have a name for it, but we won't even go by the name - it would have been very catastrophic I think if that would have happened."

According to current projections, the US is expected to experience between 100,000 and 240,00 deaths over the course of the pandemic, even if current socially distancing rules are maintained.

It was only a week ago the US President brushed off the coronavirus as "just like the flu", and said: "We lose thousands of people a year to the flu. We never turn the country off."

The US has now got the highest number of cases in the world, with more than 188,000 people confirmed to have the virus.

The US has also so far had the third highest fatality rate - just behind Spain and Italy - with over 4,000 deaths.

In a marathon press conference which lasted over three hours, Mr Trump finally acknowledged the severity of the situation and warned Americans to be prepared "for a very, very painful two weeks".

An unusually sombre Mr Trump said: “I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.

“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks. This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.”

The White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr Deborah Birx also raised concerns about the UK's ability to deal with the outbreak due to the relatively small numbers of ventilators have compared with the US.

She said: "We are worried about groups all around the globe. I don't know if you heard the report this morning, there are 8,000 ventilators in the UK.

Dr Deborah Birx
Dr Deborah Birx also raised concerns about the UK's ability to deal with the outbreak due to the relatively small numbers of ventilators have compared with the US. Picture: PA

"If you translate that to United States, that would be like the United States having less than 40,000 ventilators. We have five times that."

Mr Trump also seemed to make a U-turn on previous comments he has made about some Democrat state governors.

On Friday, he suggested he would not talk to those who were not "appreciative" of him and his efforts, naming Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who he also called "incompetent" on Twitter.

But during the press conference he said he had a "really great conversation" with her and outlined what support her state would be getting from him.

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