US President Donald Trump has denied downplaying the severity of Covid-19, although he admitted in a taped interview to have done so.
During a televised event with voters, Mr. Trump said he had “improved” it.
The claim contradicts what Mr. Trump told reporter Bob Woodward earlier this year that he played down the severity of the virus to avoid panic.
And Mr Trump reiterated that a vaccine could be ready “within weeks” despite skepticism from US health experts.
No vaccine has yet completed its clinical trials, leading some scientists to fear that politics rather than health and safety will lead to a vaccine before the presidential elections on November 3.
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Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal in 1972 and is one of the nation’s most respected journalists, interviewed Mr. Trump 18 times from December through July.
Mr Trump reportedly told him the virus was a “deadly substance” before the first American death was confirmed.
More than 195,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.
What did President Trump say?
At Tuesday’s ABC News town hall meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump was asked why “would he downplay a pandemic known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities.”
Mr. Trump replied, “Yeah, well, I haven’t played it down. In fact, in many cases I’ve played it, in terms of action. ”
“My action has been very strong,” he said, citing a ban imposed on people coming from China and Europe earlier this year.
“We would have lost thousands more people if I hadn’t put the ban on. We saved a lot of lives by doing this, ”Mr. Trump said.
In February, Mr. Trump said in the interview with Woodward that he knew more about the severity of the disease than he had said publicly.
“It goes through the air,” Mr. Trump said on the tape. “It’s always harder than touching it. You don’t have to touch things. Not true? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it happened. ”
“And so this is a very delicate question. This is a very delicate question. It’s also more deadly than even your tiring flu. ”
In Philadelphia, Mr Trump, who is seeking re-election, faced questions from undecided voters over race and health care.
Tuesday’s question-and-answer meeting comes as the presidential election battle enters its final phase.
Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden is scheduled to appear in a similar program in Pennsylvania that airs Thursday.
Pennsylvania is seen as a key state on the battlefield in the White House race.