NEW DELHI – President Donald Trump on Tuesday downplayed coronavirus concerns, saying it was “very well under control in our country,” despite a sharp rise in cases globally that prompted the biggest one-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial average in two years.
“We have very few people with it,” Trump told reporters during a press conference in New Delhi as he wrapped up his two-day visit to India. “The people are getting better, they’re all getting better…I think that whole situation will start working out.”
The comments came after financial markets tumbled Monday amid fears that the growing number of coronavirus cases could spark a pandemic.
China reported 409 new cases, raising the mainland’s total to 77,150. The 150 new deaths from the illness raised China’s total to 2,592. Elsewhere, a surge in reports of new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea raised the prospect of more disruptions.
Trump said he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he said “is committed to solving their problem” and is “working very hard.”
There are 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk for transmission is “low.” Of those, 14 were travelers who fell ill after returning from a trip abroad, while 21 were people “repatriated” and subsequently quarantined by the State Department.
On Monday, the White House requested $2.5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the epidemic. White House officials stressed the funding number, which they said includes the shifting of other funding toward the virus response. The funding request, officials said, would include more than $1 billion for vaccine development, among other priorities.
Trump said “we’re very close to a vaccine,” though senators briefed on the virus by administration officials Tuesday appeared to differ.
Coming out of the closed-door briefing, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told reporters, “we will not have a vaccine in the next 12 or 18 months,” noting the difficulty in producing and approving a vaccine in a short period of time.
The president also pushed back on criticism from Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who criticized Trump for not taking the outbreak seriously enough and using money reserved for other programs.
“I see that Chuck Schumer criticized that he thought it should be more. And if I gave more, he would say it should be less,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.
After the press conference Trump lashed out on Twitter that Schumer’s complaint was for “publicity purposes.”