Opposition figures have lambasted U.S. President Donald Trump after he admitted downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
He said his aim was to avoid public panic, which he believed would have worsened the impact of the disease.
The president defended his action at a news conference on Wednesday, insisting that it prevented panic that would have “exacerbated the oncoming pandemic”.
“I’m a cheerleader for this country. I don’t want people to be frightened. I don’t want to create panic.
“We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation. And that’s what I’ve done,” he said at the White House briefing.
According to the World Health Organisation, Coronavirus has claimed no fewer than 186,663 American lives since its outbreak.
Reacting to the president’s admittance, U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate, Mr Joe Biden, accused him of betraying Americans.
“If Donald Trump had acted just two weeks earlier, 54,000 lives could have been spared in March and April alone.
“Instead, he downplayed the threat and refused to take action, costing lives and sending our economy into a tailspin.
“It’s an unjustifiable dereliction of duty,” Biden said in a tweet.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms Nancy Pelosi, issued a strongly worded statement condemning Trump’s action.
“The horrifying toll of Trump’s deadly disinformation and negligence in the lives of grieving families and to our economy is a historic national tragedy.
“The President’s own words spell out the devastating truth: Trump was fully aware of the catastrophic nature of the coronavirus.
“But he hid the facts and refused to take the threat seriously, leaving our entire country exposed and unprepared,” Pelosi said.
The speaker added that Trump’s refusal to tell the truth or act to protect Americans caused so much pain that could have been avoided.
In a similar reaction, Democratic vice presidential candidate, Ms Kamala Harris, knocked the president for “knowingly betraying the American people”.
“As we mourn the 190,000 Americans who have died, we must also act.
“He is unfit to be president. We must vote him out in November,” she said.