Government defends Donald Trump's 'shameful' response to coronavirus

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK

The UK government has defended Donald Trump after Labour attacked his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said “now is not the time for finger pointing” after Labour counterpart Emily Thornberry condemned the US president’s “shameful behaviour”.

Trump has been widely criticised for his handling of the outbreak, having initially played down its seriousness before declaring a national emergency.

He also sparked outrage on Monday when he referred to Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus”.

In the House of Commons, shadow foreign secretary Thornberry – who has previously called Trump an “asteroid of awfulness” – told Raab: “Now he’s calling it the foreign virus, blaming it on Europe for its spread and today blaming China.”

She asked him whether he thinks it is “shameful this kind of behaviour is one we have come to expect” from Trump.

Dominic Raab speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday. (House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)

The foreign secretary, however, appeared to defend Trump as he said: “Whether it is domestically or internationally, it just doesn’t help finger-pointing in any shape or form.

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“What we’re going to do is work with all of our partners – the US, the Europeans, South America, those in Asia, as I’ve already mentioned – to try to forge the most effective response.

“That’s what all of our constituents expect and deserve.”

Raab later announced British citizens are being advised against non-essential foreign travel for 30 days as coronavirus continues to take hold across the world.

He told MPs: “Based on the fast-changing international circumstances today I am announcing changes to FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] travel advice.

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“UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lockdowns in various countries.

“The FCO will always consider the safety and the security of British nationals so with immediate effect I’ve taken the decision to advise British nationals against non-essential travel globally for an initial period of 30 days and of course subject to ongoing review.”

According to Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, there had been 185,067 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide as of 12.53pm on Tuesday, with 7,330 deaths.

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