US President Donald Trump on Saturday talked up his administration’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic, telling supporters at an election rally that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi was impressed and complimented him on the scale of the testing in the United States.
The president, who has faced criticism of his handling of the epidemic that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans, came under further scrutiny this past few days for admitting to Bob Woodward, for his upcoming book, that he had downplayed the threat from the virus though he knew exactly how lethal it was.
Trump blames the high number of US infections — 6.4 million — on more testing, which he goes on to compare to lower testing numbers in India several times before, to defend his administration’s response. He also throws in the size of the population of the two countries tor effect.
“We have the best testing programme in the world by far,” he told supporters at an election rally in Nevada, a battleground state. “We’ve tested more people than India, than many, many big countries put together. India’s second, we are 44 million tests ahead of India. They have 1.5 billion people.”
“And Prime Minister Modi calls me (and) says what a job you’ve done with testing,” he said, recounting a conversation with the prime minister, the details of which could not be ascertained immediately. They last spoke in early June and they had discussed Covid-19 then, among a host of other issues.
The United States had conducted 95.6 million tests by Saturday afternoon according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). India had done 56.2 million, according to the Indian Council Medical Research. The president, it seems, used an outdated number for India’s testing total when he claimed the US was ahead by 44 million.
Trump moved on to other subjects at the rally shortly. But bringing up Modi to endorse his response to the Covid-19 epidemic was perhaps a first and, notably, at an election rally.
Trump trails former Vice-President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, in national polls, though the gap has narrowed in recent day and will reduce further closer to November 3, the election day. He is now behind Biden by 7.5 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
The Trump 2020 campaign released recently a video made of clips from the “Howdy Modi” event that he attended with Modi in Houston last September and the “Namaste Trump” rally at Ahmedabad in February, in a bid to woo 1.8 million Indian Americans voters; they could count in battleground states.
Biden has picked an Indian American, Senator Kamala Harris, as his running mate, and rolled out an expansive plan for the welfare of India Americans and for US-India relations if he was elected president.