US President Donald Trump has said the coronavirus outbreak has hit America harder than the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, or the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, pointing the finger at China.
Since emerging in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, the coronavirus is confirmed to have infected 1.2 million Americans, killing more than 73,000.
Because of the preventive social-mitigation measures and complete shutting down of states and businesses, more than three crore people in the US have applied for unemployment benefits.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, President Trump said: "We went through the worst attack we've ever had on our country, this is worst attack we've ever had.
"This is worse than Pearl Harbour, this is worse than the World Trade Center. There's never been an attack like this," he said during a meeting with the nurses, who are on the frontline of the battle against the COVID-19.
"And it should have never happened. Could've been stopped at the source. Could've been stopped in China. It should've been stopped right at the source. And it wasn't."
The Trump administration is weighing punitive actions against China over its early handling of the global emergency. Washington is also pressing Beijing to allow American experts to probe the origin of the deadly virus, including of it escaped by a virology laboratory in Wuhan.
China has stoutly denied the allegations and ays the US wants to distract from its own response to the pandemic ahead of the November presidential election in which Trump is seeking re-election.
At another White House event, when reporters asked him about his comments earlier that likened COVID-19 to the Pearl Harbour and September 11, 2001 attacks, Trump said, "I view the invisible enemy as a war. I do not like how it got here, because it could have been stopped, but no, I view the invisible enemy like a war."
"Hey, it has killed more people than Pearl Harbour. And it has killed more people than the World Trade Center. The World Trade Center was close to 3,000. Well, we are gonna beat that by many times, unfortunately. So, yeah. We view it as a war," he added.
"This is a mobilisation against a war. In many ways, it is a tougher enemy. We do very well against the visible enemies. It is the invisible enemy. This is an invisible enemy. But we're doing a good job," the president said.
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have projected that the American economy will enter into recession and according to the White House, the country is likely to experience a minus 15-20 per cent growth in the second quarter of the current financial year.
The number of daily deaths and fresh cases of infections have shown signs of decline and as a result, a large number of states have started opening up their economy.
Trump said the White House Task Force on Coronavirus has done a great job in containing the deadly disease.
"We will be leaving the task force indefinitely. We will see. You know at a certain point it will end. Things end, but we will be adding some people to the task force," he said.
"I thought we could wind it down sooner. But I had no idea how popular the task force is until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down....," the president added.
Trump said he would like to see schools open, wherever possible.
The president also lauded nurses for their "valiant sacrifices".
Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, who works in New Orleans, was somewhat off message when Trump got most of his guests to nod in agreement that hospitals now have plenty of masks, gowns etc.
"Certainly there are pockets of areas where Personal Protection Equipment is not ideal, but this is an unprecedented time and the infection control measures that we learned back when we went to school -- one gown, one mask for one patient a day or for a time -- this is a different time. I have been reusing my N95 mask for a few weeks now. I just broke out a new one to come here, in case I needed to wear it," Thomas said.
The president put a particular spotlight on Luke Adams, a nurse who has volunteered to work in New York City.
"The men and women in this room today are true American heroes. Luke Adams is a nurse of 11 years. He lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania -- good place. When he heard the call of volunteers in New York, Luke drove to the epicentre of the outbreak and slept in his car for nine days, so he could help care for the sick," Trump said.
"A lot of us have been forced away from our partners, turned away from our children. We have slept on concrete floors or in cars. And we did these things not for our own benefit or safety," Adams said.