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US health agency let country down on coronavirus testing: Trump aide

WASHINGTON: A top White House aide rebuked a US health agency on Sunday, saying "it let the country down" in providing the testing crucial to the battle against the outbreak.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been under intense scrutiny since producing a faulty test for Covid-19 that caused weeks of delays in the US response.

Critics have pointed out that it could simply have accepted kits made by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which has been producing them since late January, instead of insisting on developing its own test.

"Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space, really let the country down with the testing," White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told NBC's Meet the Press.

"Because not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test. And that did set us back."

The Food and Drug Administration has also criticised the CDC for not following its own protocols in manufacturing Covid-19 tests.

The errors were not corrected until late February.

BLAMING OBAMA

President Donald Trump often blames the administration of his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama, for passing on "broken tests" for the new coronavirus - although Mr Obama left office years before the virus came into existence.

But Mr Navarro's comments mark the strongest criticism by a named White House official of the CDC's role in the administration's slow rollout of testing.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar defended the CDC against Mr Navarro's criticism, telling CBS it was never meant to be "the backbone of testing, of broad, mass testing, in the United States".

"I don't believe the CDC let this country down.

"I believe the CDC serves an important public health role. And what was always critical was to get the private sector to the table," he said on Face the Nation.

An editorial in the respected medical journal The Lancet also came to the agency's defence.

"There is no doubt that the CDC has made mistakes, especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic... But punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution," it said. - AFP

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