Trump says "very safe" to hold campaign rallies despite virus spread

Washington (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump insisted Monday that campaign rallies do not put his supporters at risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus, and insisted the country was well prepared for the disease.

"I think it's very safe," to continue holding frequent rallies across the country, Trump said when questioned in the Oval Office.

"You could ask that to the Democrats because they’re having a lot of rallies," said Trump, who is campaigning for a second term in November's elections.

The real-estate tycoon was scheduled to hold another rally in North Carolina later Monday, after a meeting with the heads of large pharmaceutical companies to discuss efforts to contain the virus.

"We've asked them to accelerate whatever they're doing in terms of a vaccine," Trump said.

The United States has been spared the worst so far as the virus spreads around the world, but over the weekend it announced its first two recorded deaths, in the area around Seattle in the western state of Washington, which has been the worst hit region in the country.

New York announced its first case of the disease, a 39-year-old health care worker who had recently returned from Iran, which has been particularly badly hit.

"In general, there is no doubt that there will be more cases where we find people who test positive," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "This is New York, we're a gateway to the world."

But he added that "there is no reason for undue anxiety -- the general risk remains low in New York."