‘NJ would’ve shut earlier if Trump hadn’t downplayed Covid-19 threat’

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that he would have shut down the state earlier if President Donald Trump hadn’t downplayed the coronavirus threat earlier this year.

The Democratic Governor’s remarks came after local media reported on Wednesday that Trump told a journalist in March that he wanted to downplay the threat because “he did not want to create a panic”, reports Xinhua news agency.

Speaking to CNN, Murphy said that had he known, as Trump did in February, that the virus was airborne, he would have taken more aggressive measures to fight the pandemic.

“If we had known that earlier, we would have shut the state meaningfully earlier. We would have gone to a mandatory masking policy meaningfully earlier.

We would have had a stay-at-home mandate put in place, all of which we did and we did it about as early as any American state, but we would have done it earlier and undoubtedly (it) would have saved lives,” the Governor added.

Trump’s remark was revealed in author and associate editor of The Washington Post, Bob Woodward’s new book “Rage”, slated to release this month.

It is based on 18 interviews that Trump gave Woodward between December 2019 and July 2020, as well as background conversations with officials and other sources.

Facing criticisms following the revelations, Trump insisted he was right to keep his concerns about the pandemic private.

At a White House event also on Wednesday, Trump defended his remarks, calling himself a cheerleader for the country and arguing he did not want to create panic.

“The fact is I’m a cheerleader for this country. I love our country. And I don’t want people to be frightened.

“I don’t want to create panic, as you say, and certainly I’m not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy,” Trump said.

The US continues to be the worst-hit country in the world by the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Thursday, the number of cases increased to 6,359,313, while the death toll stood at 190,796, according to the Johns Hopkins University.