(AFP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday the coronavirus pandemic has been worse for the United States than Pearl Harbour and 9/11 and renewed his criticism of China, saying the outbreak should have been stopped there.
As Germany unveiled plans for a return to near-normality — including a May 15 restart of the Bundesliga — the EU forecast a historic recession on the virus-battered continent.
Countries in Asia joined Europe, meanwhile, in easing the lockdowns that have kept swathes of humanity indoors for weeks and pummelled economies, tipping the world toward a recession not seen in decades.
Trump said fallout from the pandemic has hit the United States harder than the December 7, 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour or the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
“This is really the worst attack we’ve ever had,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “This is worse than Pearl Harbour. This is worse than the World Trade Centre.”
The surprise Japanese attack on the Pearl Harbour naval base in Hawaii drew the United States into World War II. The 9/11 terrorist attacks killed about 3,000 people, triggering two decades of US wars and anti-terrorism operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
Trump also lashed out at China, continuing a war of words over the origins of the deadly virus that emerged in Wuhan last year.
“It should have never happened,” he said. “Could have been stopped at the source. Could have been stopped in China.”
China hit back Wednesday at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over his claims the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, saying he does not have any evidence.
“This matter should be handed to scientists and medical professionals, and not politicians who lie for their own domestic political ends,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
Scientists believe the disease originated in animals and jumped to humans — possibly in a Wuhan wet market where wild animals were sold.
– ‘Shock without precedent’ –
So far, nearly 72,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 and the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted on Wednesday that the toll in the US was on track to top 100,000 by the end of May.
Tom Frieden warned US lawmakers to brace for a “long and difficult” war against the virus and urged dramatically expanding testing to rein in the pandemic.
“Until we have an effective vaccine, unless something unexpected happens, our viral enemy will be with us for many months or years,” Frieden said.
The pandemic has killed more than 260,000 people globally and officially infected nearly 3.7 million, although with limited testing the number is believed to be far higher.