A top US infectious disease expert has denied President Donald Trump’s claim that 99% of coronavirus cases were “harmless,” saying it is “obviously not” the case.

“I’m trying to figure out where the President got that number,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Financial Times Friday.

“What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1%. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99% is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case,” he explained.

The expert added that he last saw Trump on June 2 and has not personally briefed him in at least two months.

Last week, Trump downplayed a recent spike in virus cases in many US states by falsely claiming 99% of cases are “totally harmless,” a claim not backed by evidence.

After recording one million additional coronavirus cases in less than a month, the differences of opinion are sharpening between Trump and health experts. While Trump blames increased testing capacity for the surge in the virus cases and continues to defend the reopening process, the experts warn that some parts of the US are facing a “serious” problem over the spread of the pandemic.

Recent spikes in cases and hospitalizations forced many US states to pause their reopenings or reimpose restrictions to curb the virus’ spread.

The US is the worst-hit country by the pandemic with more than 3.1 million cases and nearly 133,300 fatalities, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

In all, more than 969,100 recoveries have been recorded and more than 38 million tests have been conducted so far.

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