Biden slams Trump over coronavirus 'hoax' claim: 'What in God's name is he talking about?'

Democratic presidential hopeful contrasts actions of Trump administration with Obama response to Ebola

Phil Thomas
New York
Sunday 01 March 2020 16:19
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'Has he no shame?': Biden slams Trump over coronavirus

Fresh from his victory in the South Carolina primary, former vice-president Joe Biden has slammed Donald Trump's reaction to the coronavirus crisis.

Addressing the president's reference to the crisis as a "hoax" during a political rally on Friday, Mr Biden said: "The idea that Donald Trump said just several days ago this was a Democratic hoax -- now what in God's name is he talking about? What in God's name is he talking about?

"Has he no shame?"

The Democratic presidential hopeful contrasted the actions of the current administration in trying to restrict the spread of Covid-19 with those taken by the Barack Obama government he served in over Ebola.

He was speaking after vice president Mike Pence, who has been put in charge of dealing with the crisis, said it was possible that the US could see more fatalities following the first death from coronavirus on American soil.

Mr Biden told CNN's State of the Union: "I heard the vice president say they set up an office in the White House. We had an office in the White House, dealing with a pandemic that could have been incredibly dangerous and affected the world – Ebola – we set up an entire mechanism of how to deal with future outbreaks of pandemic diseases.

"They eliminated that office when they came in play. They cut the funding for CDC [Centers for Disease Control], they tried to cut the funding in terms of HHS [Health and Human Services].

"Look, we knew this was coming back as far as January. They didn't even being to prepare the testing kits. This is something that's kind of elementary."

He added: "The fact is that other nations have had thousands of tests so far. What are we doing? Why are we just getting started?"

Mr Biden said he would also have insisted there were American scientists in China and Europe helping to get across the crisis

At a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday Mr Trump accused Democrats of politicising the crisis. Referring back to the Mueller investigation into links with Russia and to his impeachment over his efforts to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on his political rivals, the president said of coronavirus: "And this is their new hoax."

Two of this top officials appeared to follow suit.

Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, told an audience at the CPAC conference of conservative activists: "The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president."

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, refused to say the coronavirus was not a hoax when asked by Democratic congressman Ted Lieu at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

However, when asked at a rare White House news conference on Saturday, held to discuss his administration's response to the crisis, about whether he still thought it was a hoax, the president insisted his words had been taken out of context and that he had been referring to the Democrats' reaction to it.

Mr Trump said: "No no no. 'Hoax' referring to the action they take to try and pin this on somebody, because we've done such a good job."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15 people have tested positive for coronavirus after being tested in the United States. Another 44 Americans who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were repatriated have tested positive for coronavirus, as have three Americans brought back from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Donald Trump confirms first US coronavirus death

On Saturday it was announced that the first person in the United States had died from Covid-19. The man in his late 50s had underlying health problems, officials in Washington state said.

At least two other people in the state are known to have coronavirus while 50 people at an elderly care home are being tested.

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