He made the new accusation while trying to deflect claims he ignored early warnings about the pandemic.
Grilled about a Washington Post report claiming he’d repeatedly ignored warnings as early as January and February that coronavirus could present a huge problem, Trump told a White House press conference that the story was false, and cited his ban on visitors from China to the US as evidence of his fast action.
Turning his fire on China itself, Trump added: ‘When I learned (about coronavirus), I started doing the closing (of travellers who’d visited China visiting the US). Probably around that time.
‘I have great respect for China, I like China, I think the people are incredible.
‘I have a great relationship with President Xi (Jinping), but I wish they could have told us earlier about what was inside, because we could have come up with a solution.
‘China was very secretive and that’s unfortunate.
‘With that said I have great respect for that country and great respect for the leadership of that country. ‘ I wish they could have given us an advance warning. If we had a two or three month difference in time…’
Asked about his January 24 tweet, the president insisted China had been transparent at that time, but had subsequently shrouded its coronavirus briefings in secrecy. That tweet read: ‘China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus.
‘The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!’
Saturday’s bombshell Washington Post report – which has been heavily denied by the White House – alleges that US intelligence officials began warning of the potential chaos coronavirus could cause in January, only for President Trump to repeatedly ignore them and play it down. Trump has previously angered China by repeatedly referring to coronavirus as ‘the Chinese flu’ as racist attacks on Asian-Americans have spiked in the wake of the outbreak.
He insists his usage of the term is ‘accurate,’ and hit back at Chinese officials for trying to plant conspiracy theories that the virus was planted in the communist country by the US military.
Covid-19 was confirmed to have infected almost 24,000 people in the US by Saturday, with 288 people killed by the disease.
China has so-far recorded more coronavirus diagnoses than any other country, with 81,000 people infected and 3,255 killed.
Its government has faced questions over whether that death rate was accurate after the number of people killed in Italy soared to 4,825 on Saturday – almost 10% of the 53,578 people confirmed to have been infected.