'I like that': Trump says he's pleased coronavirus is making people spend money in the US

Economic slowdown could hit president’s hopes of re-election later this year

Trump warns coronavirus could hit US economy

Donald Trump has admitted that the coronavirus spread could damage the American economy, but he says the deadly outbreak that has panicked global markets has instead ”enforced” spending in the US after he has suggested the mortality rate was lower than one reported by health officials.

“It certainly might have an impact, but at the same time I have to say people are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the US, and I like that,” he told Fox News on Thursday.

“I’ve been after that for a long time: I’ve been saying stay in the US, spend your money here, and they’re doing that … they’re sort of enforced doing that.”

The president conceded the virus may have an impact on the strong economic growth seen in the US over the past decade.

“We were set to hit 30,000 on the Dow — this is a number nobody ever even came close to,” he said. However, from a peak on the 12 February at 29,600, the Dow Jones stock market index has now tumbled over fears about the spread of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

By 28 February it had fallen 14 per cent, although it has since made up some of that lost ground.

Mr Trump has made much of America’s healthy economy as his re-election campaign begins to ramp up. For 11 years in a row US GDP has been growing and unemployment is at a 50-year low.

“This is an incredible time for our nation,” he wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, confidence is surging.”

However, his economic cheerleading has also deepened America’s partisan divide. A survey by The New York Times revealed 74 per cent of Republicans (rising to 80 per cent of those who regularly watch speeches by the president) thought the economy was “booming”. Just five per cent of Democrats agreed.

If the coronavirus does lead to a prolonged slowdown in economic growth in the US, it could end up harming Mr Trump’s re-election drive.

During the same Fox News show, the former businessman insisted everyone should stay calm. “It’s going to all work out. We have plans for every single possibility and I think that’s what we have to do,” he said.

“We hope it doesn’t last too long. I think people are viewing us as having done a very good job.”

Mike Pence greets governor with 'coronavirus handshake' amid backlash over lack of testing kits in US

Although America has not yet seen a significant epidemic of Covid-19, the death toll now stands at 11; there have been at least 160 cases confirmed in 17 different states.

There have also been problems with producing enough tests for the coronavirus to meet the growing demand.

On Thursday, Mr Trump bizarrely suggested the mortality rate was lower than the 3.4 per cent reported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity, the president said he had a “hunch” based on “a lot of conversations” that the WHO figures were too high, leading to criticism from even Republican senators.

On Sunday, the WHO said that most patients (80 per cent) have experienced mild illness from coronavirus, while approximately 14 per cent experienced severe disease and 5 per cent became critically ill.

However, those who have caught the virus are not recommended to go to work and have been told to self-isolate to prevent further spreading from the outbreaks.

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