Global report: Trump says he ordered coronavirus testing to 'slow down'

Testing a ‘double-edged sword’, says Trump; Chile death toll nearly doubles; Australian state ‘absolutely at risk’ of second peak

Donald Trump told thousands of supporters on Saturday that he had asked US officials to slow down testing for Covid-19 because case numbers in the country were rising so rapidly.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the US president used racist language, referring to Covid-19 as “kung flu”, and described testing for the virus as a “double-edged sword” because it led to the identification of more cases.

The US had now tested 25 million people, far more than other countries, Trump said, adding: “When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases. So I said to my people slow the testing down.”

A White House official later told Reuters that Trump was joking.

Across the US, more than 119,654 people are confirmed to have been killed by Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. It remains the country worst hit by coronavirus, followed by Brazil, which now has more than a million cases, and Russia, which has 576,162 infections.

Trump said the “radical fake news” media had not given him credit for doing what he called “a phenomenal job” of responding to the outbreak.

The campaign rally in Tulsa went ahead despite warnings from health officials that it risked fuelling a spike in coronavirus cases. The crowd was smaller than expected, with many empty sections in the 19,000-seat arena, but few attendees wore masks.

Globally, 8,753,853 coronavirus cases have now been recorded and 463,281 fatalities confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The death toll in Chile rose especially sharply on Saturday, almost doubling to more than 7,000, after the government adjusted its data to include deaths that are probably linked to Covid-19. Official figures show there have been 236,748 infections in the country so far.

Meanwhile, several countries have reintroduced social curbs, or are considering doing so, to protect against a second wave of cases.

In Victoria, Australia’s second most populous state, case numbers are the highest they have been in more than two months, prompting the Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to warn: “We are absolutely at risk of a second peak”.

The state has extended its state of emergency for another four weeks and limited the number of guests permitted to visit people’s homes to five. Plans to relax rules on the number of customers allowed in cafes, restaurants and pubs have also been put on hold.

German health officials have also reported a rise in transmission, following clusters of cases linked to meatpacking plants, logistics centres, and refugee shelters.

Greece has also announced another extension of the coronavirus lockdown on its migrant camps, despite warnings that migrants rights are being undermined by the restrictions.

The Palestinian Authority is among those tightening restrictions, after announcing on Saturday that it would temporarily close the cities of Hebron and Nablus in the occupied West Bank, following a sharp rise in infections.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he was considering making it mandatory within days to wear masks in public places, after the tally of confirmed coronavirus cases passed 200,000.

The developments follow last week’s warning from the head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, that the world had entered “a new and dangerous phase” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies but the virus is still spreading fast, it is still deadly and most people are still susceptible,” he said on Friday. “We call on all countries and all people to exercise extreme vigilance.”

In other developments:

  • China reported 26 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, driven by the outbreak linked to a wholesale food centre in the south-west of Beijing.

  • The Philippines reported 578 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, a record number. This includes test results that were released to patients over the past three days.

  • Two new Covid-19 cases have been detected in New Zealand, according to the Ministry of Health. One is the child of the couple returning from Delhi who were revealed as cases on Saturday, the second is a 59-year-old woman who also returned from Delhi, but at a later date – on June 15.

  • Serbians go to polls on Sunday to elect a new parliament in Europe’s first national election since coronavirus lockdowns took effect some three months ago.

  • An Italian collective brought 67 migrants to safety on Saturday, as the first charity rescue ship reached Italian shores since authorities had decided to close all ports because of the coronavirus pandemic in April.

  • Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.


Rebecca Ratcliffe

The GuardianTramp

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