United States President Donald Trump on Thursday said the spread of the coronavirus globally was “either a terrible mistake [on part of China] or it was incompetence”. For weeks, Trump has blamed China for the crisis that has infected over 12.5 lakh people and killed more than 75,000 in the United States.

Trump, during his daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing, said that the contagion emerged out of China and spread to 184 countries. “It’s a horrible, horrible thing that was given to our country,” he added. “It should’ve been stopped right at the site, where it came from. There have been over 38.6 lakh cases of the coronavirus globally, and more than 2.69 lakh people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Meanwhile, House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday announced the formation of the China Task Force to investigate the country’s role in the spread of the pandemic, Bloomberg reported. McCarthy said “China’s cover up” directly led to this crisis. “It follows the same threatening pattern of behaviour we have seen from the Chinese Communist Party for years, something that has long been a bipartisan consensus in Washington,” he added.

Earlier this month, Trump threatened China with new tariffs as he sharpened his rhetoric against Beijing over the pandemic, claiming that he had seen evidence linking a Wuhan lab to the infection. The World Health Organization, however, said Trump’s comments were “speculative”, and called for a scientific inquiry.

Follow today’s updates on the coronavirus pandemic here

Also read:

  1. Covid-19: Donald Trump threatens China with new tariffs, says evidence ties virus to Wuhan lab
  2. Covid-19: WHO says US claims on virus origin from Chinese lab is ‘speculative’, seeks proof

‘Temporarily suspend new guest worker visas, including H1-B’

Four Republican Party senators on Thursday urged Trump to suspend all new guest worker visas, including H1-B visas, for 60 days, according to a press release on the website of one of the senators, Tom Cotton. They also urged the president to suspend certain categories of new guest worker visas for at least the next year, or until unemployment has returned to normal levels.

The H-1B visa allows American companies to temporarily employ skilled workers from other countries. More than three lakh Indians are believed to be on this work permit. On April 14, the United States said it is considering requests by the Indian government to extend the validity of H-1B visas of citizens stranded in the country.

“While economic shutdowns in states and localities across the country have been necessary to reduce the spread of this pandemic, the results have been devastating for businesses and workers alike,” Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Chuck Grassley and Josh Hawley told Trump. “As you know, more than 33 million [3.3 crore] Americans have filed for unemployment coverage just since mid-March, and approximately one-fifth of the American workforce is currently out of work.”

The senators added that exceptions could be made for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who want to come to the United States to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, the senators also urged Trump to suspend the Optional Training Program, which allows foreign students in the United States to extend their stay in the country after graduation for one to three years, to hold jobs. “While the merits of such a program are subject to debate, there is certainly no reason to allow foreign students to stay for three additional years just to take jobs that would otherwise go to unemployed Americans as our economy recovers,” they wrote.

Last month, Trump signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the country for 60 days, citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.