WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Mar. 13, even as he reminisced about “the great time” he had during his recent visit to India, showered praise on Indian and Chinese pharmaceutical companies, and predicted that they would soon come up with a therapeutic and ultimately a vaccine to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden to declare a national emergency to “unleash the full power of the federal government,” to fight the disease, Trump said, “We are working on our drug companies, (and) our pharmaceutical companies are working very closely with China and India, and as you know, all over the world—and they are all over the world.”
And, these Indian and Chinese pharma companies, the President said, “are magnificent companies—they are very, very knowledgeable—and we are very lucky to have them because I think you are going to come up with, whether it is therapeutic or whether it is just help, helping to get better, and then ultimately a vaccine,” to combat this dreaded virus.
However, he acknowledged that a vaccine would take “a little longer, because of the test periods and a couple of other reasons,” but reiterated that “you are going to have it quickly because of their great knowledge. And, they will have it very quickly because they’ve made a tremendous amount of progress.”
Much of the generics for the treatment of high cholesterol and diabetes come from India, replacing the earlier brands Lipitor and Glucophage with Atorvastatin and Metformin respectively, while it is estimated that 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are developed and manufactured in China.
Trump heaped these kudos on India and Chinese pharma, when an Indian reporter asked him if he was happy “with the Chinese response to what really happened,” that gave rise to the coronavirus pandemic that started in Wuhan, the sprawling capital of Central China’s Hubei province, and also for his opinion on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to close India’s borders till April 15 and if he “has spoken with the Prime Minister of India if he needed any help.”
“We had a great time in India—it was an incredible trip,” the President said, and said that Modi is “a great friend of mine and he’s a great friend of his people because he was greeted incredibly warmly, as was I, at the stadium,” in Ahmedabad during his 36-hour visit to India.
Trump recalled that “it was an incredible event and I loved being with him. So, just say hello to him,” he told the reporter, and added, “We talked about everything. We talked about far more than just borders.”
Earlier, the White House said in a statement that India is part of a U.S.-led global initiative to share information on integrating science into coronavirus response, which also includes the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.
It said that the second conference call by the science ministers and chief advisors of these countries was held on Mar. 11, and was convened by Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology
Trump at the press conference, said, “As far as President Xi (Jinping of China), likewise, he is a friend of mine and I believe that we are dealing in good faith,” he said, and added, referring to the recent U.S.-China trade negotiations, “We just worked a—as you know, as I just said—we worked an incredible deal. A big deal, one of the biggest deals made of any kind.”
“But, I think they (the Chinese) want to get to the bottom of things also (regarding the advent of the coronavirus),” Trump said.
Recent media reports have said that Chinese officials have sidestepped questions about whether Beijing blames Washington for the coronavirus outbreak after a foreign ministry spokesman suggested it could have been planted by the U.S. Army.
"When did patient zero begin in U.S.? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Zhao Lijian tweeted in both Chinese and English on Mar. 12. “Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!"
The foreign ministry spokesman’s post was accompanied by a video of Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that some Americans who had seemingly died from influenza later tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Zhao, who was based at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan before moving to the foreign ministry in February, according to reports, is a prolific social media user and a hashtag referring to his posts was trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Mar. 13 with more than 89,000 mentions, even as the reports said that “he is known for being outspoken and for his sometimes outrageous comments.
His post came shortly after his boss and the ministry's top spokesperson Hua Chunying, retweeted the same video of Redfield, alongside a post which read: "It is absolutely WRONG and INAPPROPRIATE to call this the Chinese coronavirus."
NBC News said that “when their colleague Geng Shuang was asked if their comments reflected Beijing’s official views on the virus — which is believed to have been transferred to humans at a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where the pathogen first broke out — he did not directly comment.”
He told Reuters, “The international community, including the U.S., have different opinions about the origin of the virus," adding that the origin of the virus was a scientific matter and as such, scientific views should be listened to.