US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn has declined to back Donald Trump's claim that 99 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the US are "totally harmless," despite saying data shows the virus is still a "serious problem."
“We know that cases are surging in the country,” Mr Hahn said, despite being asked pointedly by CNN's Dana Bash to respond to the president's latest claim about the mild effects of most coronavirus cases.
“We've all seen the graphs associated with that, and it’s just too early, and I'm not going to speculate on what the causation is there," Mr Hahn said.
Ms Bash followed up by suggesting the Centres from Disease Control and Prevention statistics Mr Trump may have been referring to do not tell the whole story for coronavirus patients. She then asked Mr Hahn whether Mr Trump's assertion during his speech was wrong.
“I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong,” Mr Hahn said.
“What I’m gonna say ... is what I’ve said before, which is that it’s a serious problem that we have. We’ve seen this surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide," he said, referring to the recent spike in cases in several states, especially ones that broke for Mr Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Mr Trump stated his claim about the relative innocuousness of coronavirus on Saturday during a speech celebrating US Independence Day on Saturday.
"Now we have tested almost 40 million people. … By so doing, we show cases 99 per cent of which are totally harmless," the president said.
ABC News anchor Martha Raddatz asked Mr Hahn similar questions on Sunday, which he also declined to answer directly.
"How many cases would you say are harmless?" Ms Raddatz asked.
“You know, any case, we don't want to have in this country. This is a very rapidly moving epidemic, rapidly-moving pandemic. And any death, any case is tragic. And we want to do everything we can to prevent that,” Mr Hahn said.
Several countries have put restrictions on travel to and from the US as new Covid-19 cases continue to surge here.
Health officials have reported more than 50,000 new cases multiple times over the last 10 days.
On Thursday, officials reported 55,595 new infections.
The UK now requires people travelling there from the US to self-isolate for 14 days.
"They have got very high numbers of infections, which is why they are not on the list [of countries exempt from the 14-day isolation mandate] today," Britain’s transport minister Grant Shapps said last week.