Donald Trump has claimed the fact the US has 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases – the most of any country in the world – is a “badge of honour”.
The country has suffered almost 92,000 deaths of people with COVID-19, but the president suggested the infection figures should be a source of pride.
“By the way, you know when you say that we lead in cases, that’s because we have more testing than anybody else,” he told reporters at the White House.
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“So when we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing, I look at that as, in a certain respect, as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better.
“So I view it as a badge of honour. Really, it’s a badge of honour.
“It’s a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.”
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Mr Trump also emphatically defended himself against criticism from medical experts that his decision to announce he was taking a malaria drug to prevent coronavirus could spark wide misuse of the unproven treatment with potentially fatal side effects.
His revelation on Monday that he was taking hydroxychloroquine caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify the statement.
But their attempt to address the concerns of health professionals was undercut by the president himself.
While offering no evidence, he suggested a study of veterans raising alarm about the drug was “false” and an “enemy statement”, despite his own government stating the drug should be administered for COVID-19 only in a hospital or research setting.
“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape,” he said.
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The remarks were apparently in reference to a study of hundreds of patients treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, in which more of those in a group who were administered hydroxychloroquine died than among those who weren’t.
“They were very old. Almost dead,” he said.
“It was a Trump enemy statement.”
The drug has also not been shown to protect or treat the virus in a number of other studies.