The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump was referring to Ebola — not the deadly coronavirus — when he claimed that "we're very close to a vaccine."
Trump discussed the fast-spreading virus, which has killed more than 2,700 people and infected tens of thousands more, at a press conference during a state visit to India. The U.S. in late January imposed travel restrictions and quarantines in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
An NBC News reporter asked the president whether his administration's response to the coronavirus squared with his criticism in 2014 of President Barack Obama's handling of the Ebola outbreak.
"Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent," Trump wrote in a July 31, 2014, tweet. "KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!"
But Trump said Tuesday there was a "big difference" between the coronavirus and Ebola, which carried an extremely high death rate at its peak.
"We're still working on Ebola," Trump said. "We're doing a vaccine ... we're still working on that."
With coronavirus, the death rate is currently closer to "1 or 2 percent," Trump said.
"In the other case it was a virtual 100 percent. Now they have it, they have studied it, they know very much. In fact, we're very close to a vaccine," Trump said.
White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNBC later Tuesday that Trump "was talking about the Ebola vaccine."
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in December that it had approved a vaccine for the prevention of the Ebola virus.
And The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that drugmaker Moderna just shipped the first batch of its coronavirus vaccine to U.S. government researchers.
The president's comments came as he and his administration have worked to ease the growing fears, from markets and governments alike, that a pandemic is on the way. After a spike in cases outside China over the weekend, stocks plunged Monday in the worst trading session in two years.
Elsewhere in the press conference, Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus to the U.S., saying, "We're really down to probably 10" cases.
There are currently 53 confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus. Most of those infected people are repatriated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus in China, or the Princess Cruise line.
Trump also took a shot at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who had criticized the Trump administration's $2.5 billion coronavirus budget request as "too little too late."
"If I gave more, he would say it should be less," Trump said.
The emergency spending bill asks Congress for more than $1 billion to go toward vaccines. It also includes money for therapeutics, vaccine development and stockpiling personal protective equipment, an official from the Office of Management and Budget told CNBC.
"I was right. He is incompetent!" Trump wrote.
Schumer attacked the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus in comments on the Senate floor later Tuesday morning.
"We have a crisis and the Trump administration is trying to build an airplane while already in mid flight," Schumer said. "The harsh fact of the matter is, the Trump administration has shown towering and dangerous incompetence when it comes to the coronavirus."