Coronavirus: Trump insists ‘herd mentality’ will end pandemic, as US death toll creeps toward 200,000

US president Donald Trump on ABC News' Tuesday town hall (REUTERS)
US president Donald Trump on ABC News' Tuesday town hall (REUTERS)

Donald Trump has suggested the coronavirus pandemic could end with some form of “herd mentality" to the virus, appearing to attempt to refer to the concept of community immunity.

Speaking at a televised ABC News town hall in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, the US president defended his administration’s handling of the pandemic as he promised Covid-19 “would go away”.

Asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos whether or not the coronavirus could disappear without a vaccine, the president replied: “Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.”

“You'll develop – you'll develop herd – like a herd mentality,” he told the host, who suggested there could be deaths from the approach requiring large sections of a population to contract a virus before “herd mentality” is developed.

“Herd immunity” refers to the point at which a virus is so widespread within a population, whether through natural spread or through a vaccination programme, that people become immune.

“It's going to be – it's going to be herd-developed, and that's going to happen. That will all happen,” said Mr Trump, who added: “But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.”

In an earlier appearance on Fox & Friends on Tuesday, Mr Trump had claimed to be “within weeks” of distributing a vaccine before election day on 3 November, fulfilling a previous pledge.

He then told the ABC News host on Tuesday night that “it... Could be three weeks, four weeks" until that was possible.

But the president’s reiteration that so-called “herd developed” immunity to the coronavirus could end the pandemic, will likely have alarmed American scientists.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House coronavirus task force member and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned last month that “herd immunity” could lead to many more deaths.

"If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die," Dr Fauci told an Instagram live audience, CNN reported.

He added: “If everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable".

The president’s comments came as the US coronavirus death toll surpassed 195,000 on Tuesday night, with 6.6 million infections, according to John Hopkins university data.

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