'That is just a fact': Dr Fauci hits back at Trump's claims coronavirus testing should slow down

Top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has undercut Donald Trump's claim that he directed his health policy advisers to slow down the rate of testing to bring down the number of reported US cases.

"None of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact," Mr Fauci said, a direct contradiction of Mr Trump's comments at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the weekend.

"In fact, we will be doing more testing," Mr Fauci said, pointing to a plan outlined by Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield to boost testing and tracing systems.

Mr Fauci, Mr Redfield, and two other top health experts were testifying at a House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight hearing on the Covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday.

At his rally in Tulsa, Mr Trump compared coronavirus testing to a "double-edged sword," lamenting the possibility that the US has more cases of the disease than anyone else because of its robust testing regime, which initially lagged but has since caught up and surpassed many parts of the rest of the world.

“Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please,'" the president said.

The White House later walked back the statement made by the president by saying he was joking about asking to slow down testing.

Economic advisor Peter Navarro called the moment “tongue-in-cheek” in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

But asked on Tuesday by a reporter whether he was kidding about directing health officials to draw down testing, Mr Trump responded, "I don't kid."

It was unclear if Mr Trump heard the whole question, as the propellers of the executive's helicopter, Marine One, chopped in the background.

"We have got the greatest testing programme anywhere in the world," Mr Trump added. "By having more tests, we find more cases. ... By having more cases, it sounds bad," he said.

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