Donald Trump says he is “very confident” that a vaccine for the coronavirus will be developed by the end of the year.
The US president appeared at a primetime virtual town hall hosted by the Fox News network in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
His own scientific advisers have consistently agreed with international experts that a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months to appear.
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But the president struck an optimistic tone. “We are very confident that we are going to have a vaccine at the end of the year.
“We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year and we are pushing very hard.
“We are pushing supply lines. Many companies are, I think, close.”
Mr Trump said the search for a vaccine was an international effort that he didn’t care if another country was first to find the solution. “I’ll take my hat off to them.”
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The two-hour event was branded “Returning To Work”, as Mr Trump pushed his plan for states to reopen their economies.
“We have to get it back open safely, but as quickly as possible.”
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In the week that saw the highest nationwide death toll in a 24-hour period in the US – 2,909 reported deaths on Friday – the president again defended his administration’s response.
“It is all working out. It is horrible to go through, but it is working out.”
Mr Trump again blamed authorities in Chinafor what he described as their failure to raise the alarm about the virus.
He said earlier this week that he has seen evidence that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Virology Laboratory.
Asked if he was alleging “something nefarious”, he said he believed it was the result of a “mistake”.
Mr Trump promised more details about the origins of the outbreak would soon be released by the US intelligence services but offered no details.
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Mr Trump has been accused of ignoring repeated warnings about the risks of the virus in his presidential daily briefings throughout January. He claimed he was told it was “not a big deal”.
With exactly six months to go until the presidential election, Mr Trump lamented how the lockdown had prevented him from holding campaign rallies.
But, appearing on one of his favourite television networks, he was able to hit familiar campaign themes, including trade and his border wall.
He also described a phone call with British prime minister Boris Johnson after his recovery from a “vicious” battle with coronavirus. “He thought it was over,” Mr Trump said.