Flip-flop over coronavirus task force marks Donald Trump’s day out
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he intended to keep the coronavirus task force “indefinitely”, reversing his earlier plan to wind it down. The panel will be repurposed to focus on “safety and reopening”, Trump tweeted less than 12 hours after saying he wanted to replace it with “something different” for phase two, the reopening of the country.
The task force, he tweeted, will continue “indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN … and will also be very focused on Vaccines & Therapeutics”. Trump said he may “add or subtract people” from the panel.
On Tuesday, while visiting a Honeywell manufacturing facility in Phoenix, Arizona, where he flouted the rule to wear a mask, Trump had revealed his intentions to wind down the task force. “We’re now looking at a little bit of a different form,” he said, adding a “different group” could be set up for phase two.
Meanwhile, Rick Bright, a senior official in the department of health and human services, has alleged that his warnings about the outbreak made in January had been ignored. In a whistle-blower complaint, he said he shared with a reporter non-classified emails between government officials about hydroxychloroquine, in which they had “discussed the drug’s potential toxicity and demonstrated the political pressure to rush these drugs from Pakistan and India to American households”. Bright claimed he was transferred out shortly after the publication of a news article about the drug.
In another development, China on Wednesday said the US should not use tariffs as weapons after Trump threatened to impose more trade taxes on Chinese goods as punishment for Beijing’s handling of the outbreak.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said tariffs in general hurt all parties involved. “So the US should stop thinking it can use tariffs as a weapon,” he said.
(With inputs from Sutirtho Patranobis in Beijing)