Accused of reacting too slowly to the initial reports of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Donald Trump tonight defended his handling of the crisis.
His administration has come under fire over its response after the first US case was reported on January 21.
Critics have said thousands of lives could have been saved if the administration had acted faster.
But this was dismissed by the US president on Twitter tonight.
Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the CoronaVirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the U.S. Also, they only spoke of the Virus in a very non-threatening, or matter of fact, manner…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2020
“Intelligence has just reported to me that I was correct, and that they did NOT bring up the Coronavirus subject matter until late into January, just prior to my banning China from the US,” he wrote.
“Fake News got it wrong again, as always, and tens of thousands of lives were saved by my EARLY BAN of China into our Country.
“The people that we’re allowed were heavily scrutinized and tested U.S. citizens, and as such, I welcome them with open arms (sic)!”
Mr Trump reportedly received his first briefing on January 23 and another five days later, on January 28.
A travel ban on anyone who had been in China in the previous 14 days, apart from US citizens, was introduced on February 2.
With more than 1.1 million cases of coronavirus in the US and a death toll of over 68,000, the administration’s handling of the crisis is likely to dominate the November election.
Earlier in the day US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “enormous evidence” that the global coronavirus pandemic started in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Appearing on ABC’s This Week, he ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing by laying the blame for the disaster, which has claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives across the world, at China’s door.
Most experts believe the virus originated at Wuhan’s wet food market and transferred from live animals – probably bats – to humans.
But Mr Pompeo joined Donald Trump in pinpointing the source of the virus to the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“There’s enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” he said.
“We said from the beginning, that this was a virus that originated in Wuhan. We took a lot of grief for that from the outset, but I think the whole world can see now. Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and a history of running sub-standard laboratories.”