US President Donald Trump has denied downplaying the seriousness of Covid-19, despite admitting in a recorded interview to having done that.
At a televised event with voters, Mr Trump said he had “up-played” it.
The claim contradicts comments Mr Trump made to journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year, when he said he minimised the virus’s severity to avoid panic.
Mr Trump also repeated on Tuesday that a vaccine could be ready “within weeks” despite scepticism from health experts.
More than 195,000 people have died with Covid-19 in the US since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins university.
Meanwhile, the magazine Scientific American on Tuesday endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time in its 175-year history, backing Democrat Joe Biden for the White House.
The magazine said Mr Trump “rejects evidence and science” and described his response to the coronavirus pandemic as “dishonest and inept”.
What did Trump say?
At Tuesday’s town hall meeting held by ABC News in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr Trump was asked why he would “downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities”.
Mr Trump responded: “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action.”
“My action was very strong,” he said, citing a ban imposed on people travelling from China and Europe earlier this year.
“We would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the ban on. We saved a lot of lives when we did that,” Mr Trump said.
The US ban on foreign travellers who were recently in China came into force in early February, while a ban on travellers from European countries was introduced the following month.
But Mr Trump has been accused of being slow implementing measures to curtail the virus.
In its statement on Tuesday, Scientific American said despite warnings in January and February, Mr Trump “did not develop a national strategy to provide protective equipment, coronavirus testing or clear health guidelines.”