President Trump on Monday insisted that America’s ability to test for the coronavirus is “very much on par” with other countries, criticizing a reporter who asked why the U.S. isn’t testing as many people per capita as South Korea.
Trump said at a Monday evening White House press conference that the population of the U.S. is far more spread out, with less dense regions that have seen less of an impact from COVID-19, suggesting that testing was not needed in those places.
“I know South Korea better than anybody. It’s an area that’s very tight. You know how many people are in Seoul?” Trump asked “PBS NewsHour” reporter Yamiche Alcindor.
Trump described the makeup of Seoul as “38 million people all tightly wound together,” though the population of the South Korean capital is estimated to be around 10 million.
“We have vast farmlands. We have vast areas where they don’t have much of a problem. In some cases they have no problem whatsoever,” the president continued. “We have done more tests — I didn’t talk about per capita — we have done more tests by far than any country in the world.”
Trump has repeatedly touted the federal government’s efforts to ramp up testing over the past several days, in particular comparing the U.S.’s efforts favorably to South Korea’s. Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the federal government’s response to the coronavirus, said last week that the U.S. had tested more individuals over a span of eight days than South Korea did in eight weeks.
Still, the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries in terms of per capita testing for COVID-19 and faced scrutiny for testing delays at the early stage of the virus’s spread domestically.
At Monday’s press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump administration officials announced that the U.S. has now tested more than 1 million Americans. Trump also pointed to an Abbott Laboratories test recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration that yields coronavirus test results in about five minutes, saying it would help further accelerate testing.
“Our testing is also better than any country in the world. … That’s something that’s a game changer,” Trump said during the exchange with Alcindor, a reporter with whom he also clashed at a briefing the day before over of her line of questioning.
“Rather than ask a question like that, you should congratulate the people that have done this testing because we inherited, this administration inherited a broken system, a system that was obsolete, a system that didn’t work,” Trump told her Monday.
The president specifically signaled out Roche Diagnostics for its work on coronavirus testing before ending the briefing.
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