President Donald Trump has announced the rollout of 150 million “rapid” coronavirus tests during a news conference – but avoided questions about his tax affairs.
The announcement comes a day after the New York Times claimed Mr Trump had only paid $750 (£590) in federal taxes in 2016 – the year he was elected commander-in-chief.
In a carefully scripted speech to reporters on the White House lawn, the president unveiled a “massive” and “ground-breaking” expansion of coronavirus testing in the US – which currently has the most cases and deaths in the world.
Mr Trump said the tests would largely be used for opening schools and ensuring safety at centres for elderly people.
The Abbott rapid test, which involves swabbing a person’s nasal passage before dipping the swab into a solution, can give users a result in about 15 minutes, without the need for a computer to process.
He said 50 million tests will go to the “most vulnerable communities” including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice care.
The president added: “One hundred million rapid point of care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies and schools immediately and as fast as they can.”
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He continued: “The support my administration is providing would allow every state on a very regular basis to test every teacher who needs it.”
Mr Trump said that “too many states” are in lockdown right now, adding: “Nobody knows what the governors are doing”.
The president said 6.5 million tests will go out this week and the rest in the coming weeks.
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He added that the US was on course to have a “safe and effective” COVID-19 vaccine “in record time”.
“We will defeat the virus and we will end the pandemic.
“And next year will be one of the greatest years in our history.”
However, Mr Trump ended the news conference before taking any questions – which would have likely focussed on his newly-revealed tax affairs.
As well as the claim by the New York Times that Mr Trump only paid $750 (£590) in federal tax in 2016, the paper also reported that he paid no income tax at all for 10 of the 15 years before his presidency.
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This prompted the commander-in-chief to tweet “fake news”, while later accusing the “fake news media” of bringing up his taxes “with bad intent”.
Mr Trump’s communication director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement: “The (New York) Times came up empty in their never-ending quest to somehow tie the president to any foreign interest, as much as that is their greatest desire.
“This is a big nothing-burger and a pre-debate attack intended solely to help Joe Biden.”
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