28 Apr 2020

Disinfectant furore: Trump mystified by sharp rise in hotline queries

4:18 pm on 28 April 2020

Despite his suggestion last week that disinfectant could be injected into people to treat coronavirus, US President Donald Trump says he does not understand why queries to a hotline on the topic have risen sharply.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on April 27, 2020.

Donald Trump is refusing to accept responsibility for an increase in calls asking about using disinfectant to treat coronavirus. Photo: AFP

The governors of Michigan and Maryland yesterday blamed the president for the spike in such calls.

Following heavy criticism from medical professionals, Trump said his remarks were made sarcastically.

Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.

During today's Covid-19 news conference in Washington, a reporter noted that the state of Maryland's emergency hotline had received hundreds of calls in recent days seeking guidance about Trump's comments.

"I can't imagine why," the president said, moving quickly on. "I can't imagine that."

When asked whether he took responsibility at all for the increase in calls, Trump replied: "No, I don't."

Last week, the Maryland governor's office said it had issued a statewide alert warning against ingesting or injecting disinfectants following the president's remarks.

Trump made the disinfectant remarks on Thursday, after an official presented the results of US government research that showed Covid-19 could be killed in minutes by bleach.

"I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute," Trump said. "And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?"

On Friday afternoon, Trump told journalists: "I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen."

Trump also said today that China could have stopped the coronavirus before it swept the globe.

"We're doing very serious investigations ... We are not happy with China," Trump said. "There are a lot of ways you can hold them accountable.

"We believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn't have spread all over the world."

Trump's criticism was the latest from his administration to target China's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which began late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has grown into a global pandemic.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States "strongly believed" Beijing failed to report the outbreak in a timely manner and covered up how dangerous the respiratory illness caused by the virus was.

China's foreign ministry has denied the allegations.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on April 27, 2020.

US President Donald Trump says China could have prevented Covid-19 from turning into a global pandemic. Photo: AFP

No delay in US election, president says

During today's Rose Garden press conference, Trump was also asked whether he would delay the presidential election in November.

"I never even thought of changing the date of the election," he said. "Why would I do that?"

Former US vice-president Joe Biden, Trump's presumptive Democratic opponent, said last week he thought Trump would "try to kick back the election somehow".

But Trump told reporters the idea was "made-up propaganda".

"I look forward to that election," he said.

Constitutional scholars have already noted that if a president wanted to change the timing of a White House election he would be unable to do so - even in an emergency - because the date is set by Congress.

Trump was also asked by a reporter if a president who has lost more Americans over six weeks than died during the two decades of the Vietnam war deserved to be re-elected.

He said his administration had done an "unbelievable" job.

The total number of confirmed US Covid-19 cases is almost at one million. There have been more than 55,000 deaths thus far.

- BBC / Reuters

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