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Biden slams 'colossal' Trump failure on virus testing

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Wilmington (United States) (AFP)

White House hopeful Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump's administration Thursday for its "colossal" failure to conduct sufficient coronavirus testing, as the leading Democrat unveiled his own plan for fighting the pandemic.

"The administration's failure on testing is colossal, and it's a failure of planning, leadership, and execution," said the former vice president in a searing critique of Trump's handling of a crisis that has now claimed 38 lives in the United States.

"Anyone who needs to be tested based on medical guidance should be tested at no charge," he said, as he called for the establishment of "hundreds of mobile testing sites" around the nation.

American public health experts have criticized authorities for downplaying the epidemic and lagging behind in testing efforts.

Biden pointed to more comprehensive mismanagement of the crisis, and accused Trump of xenophobia by continuing to highlight the Chinese origin of coronavirus.

"Labeling COVID-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration," he said.

The 77-year-old Biden, speaking from Delaware, is in a heated race for the Democratic presidential nomination against rival Bernie Sanders.

Both candidates have cancelled recent campaign rallies, and Biden said he would host a "virtual town hall" with Illinois voters on Friday rather than an in-person rally before the state holds its Democratic primary next Tuesday, along with Arizona, Florida and Ohio.

Sanders, 78, has scheduled an address on coronavirus for later Thursday.

The two face off in a debate on Sunday. The Democratic National Committee announced it was shifting location of the debate from Arizona to Washington over coronavirus fears.

Biden unveiled a multi-pronged approach to tackling the crisis, including mounting a "decisive" public health response that ensures wide and cost-free testing availability and protects frontline workers.

The plan also features an economic response, as Biden called on government to take "immediate bold measures to help Americans who are hurting economically right this minute."

Biden encouraged the administration to borrow liberally from his plan.

"President Trump is welcome to adopt all of it today," he said.

Democrats have already introduced a bill that addresses some of the same issues proposed by Biden. Party leadership is negotiating with the White House on the legislation.

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