Donald Trump knew the novel coronavirus was deadlier than the flu but he wanted to downplay the crisis, new book reveals.
Bob Woodward quoted Mr Trump as telling him the virus was “deadly stuff” before the first US death was confirmed.
Responding, the president said he had wanted to avoid causing public panic.
Some 190,000 Americans have been recorded as dying with Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Bob Woodward interviewed Mr Trump 18 times from December to July.
On Wednesday, some US media released parts of the interviews between the president and the journalist, revealing his reported remarks on the outbreak.
What the book says?
Mr Trump indicated that he knew more about the severity of the illness than he had said publicly.
According to a tape of the call, Mr Trump told Woodward in February that the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu.
“It goes through the air,” Mr Trump told the author on 7 February.
“That’s always tougher than the touch. You don’t have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed.
“And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”
However, during Mr Trump’s press conferences he promised the virus was “very much under control”, and that the case count would soon be close to zero. He also publicly implied the flu was more dangerous than Covid-19.
Trump’s reaction on the ‘disclosure’:
Speaking from the White House earlier on Wednesday, he told reporters: “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.
“We want to show confidence, we want to show strength.”
He added Woodward’s book was “a political hit job”.