COVID-19: Quarantine Of New York Is Unnecessary, Says Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

 

US President Donald Trump decided late Saturday against imposing a broad two-week lockdown on New York and its neighbors after a strong pushback from local political leaders and warnings of the panic it could spark.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, late Saturday advised residents of the region not to travel except for essential purposes.

“A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted, about eight hours after he stunned the New York metropolitan region, the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, with a proposal to place it under quarantine to prevent residents from leaving.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Coronavirus Cases Rise To 97 As NCDC Confirms Eight More Infections

A lockdown of that type would have been the harshest measure yet taken by the US government to slow the spread of the disease.

Trump had indicated earlier that he was responding to worries in other states, particularly Florida, that travelers from the greater New York City area could spread COVID-19 in their communities.

He told reporters that “heavily infected” New Yorkers were a threat to Florida, a popular southern holiday destination for people in the northeast.

But after strong warnings from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Ned Lamont that the move would spark panic and cause further damage to financial markets, Trump reversed course and said there would only be travel warnings for the region.

“On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to issue a strong Travel Advisory,” he said on Twitter.

The CDC then published its advisory which urged residents of the three neighboring states “to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”

– US epicenter –

New York state has reported in excess of 53,000 cases of the new coronavirus, out of more than 124,000 nationwide.

New York City alone reported a surge of more than 155 deaths Saturday, taking the city’s total to 672, about one-third of the 2,185 fatalities across the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Neighboring New Jersey has reported more than 11,100 COVID-19 cases.

Cuomo told CNN earlier that a lockdown on travel in and out of the global financial and trade hub would not be legal or make sense — especially since there are already local controls on movements.

“Why you would want to just create total pandemonium on top of a pandemic, I have no idea,” he said.

Lamont called New York City, New Jersey and southern Connecticut “the global capital of the world” for commerce and finance.

“If you care as much as the president does about getting this economy going again, you’ve got to be very careful about what you say and what you don’t say,” he said.

– ‘Don’t come here’ –

Yet Trump appeared to be echoing concerns in other states that visiting New Yorkers could exacerbate the spread of coronavirus.

In Rhode Island, about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of New York City, police and national guard members were knocking on doors of homes where cars had New York license plates to remind them of a requirement to self-quarantine.

Florida has a large population of retirees but has so far only reported slightly more than 4,000 new-coronavirus cases.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a political ally of Trump, issued executive orders this week mandating two-week self-quarantines for anyone arriving or recently arrived from New York and Louisiana, another US hotbed of the disease.

He said police will put up checkpoints along the state line to remind people of the requirement.

“All we are trying to do is keep our residents here safe. If you are coming from one of the epicenters… don’t come here because we are trying to protect our folks,” he said.

AFP

Trump Signs $2trn Recovery Plan As COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket In US

Members of the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office at the site as workers build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital to handle an expected surge in Coronavirus victims on March 25, 2020 in New York. Bryan R. Smith / AFP
Members of the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office at the site as workers build a makeshift morgue outside of Bellevue Hospital to handle an expected surge in Coronavirus victims on March 25, 2020 in New York. Bryan R. Smith / AFP

 

President Donald Trump signed into law Friday the $2 trillion rescue plan to salvage a US economy crippled by the novel coronavirus, on a day the nation’s total count of COVID-19 cases surpassed 100,000.

Trump’s signature brings an end to a dramatic, weeklong legislative saga on Capitol Hill and triggers the distribution of millions of relief checks of up to $3,400 for an average American family of four.

Hours earlier lawmakers in the House of Representatives united to green-light the mega-plan as the number of recorded deaths from the virus hit 1,693.

“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said.

“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses. That’s what this is all about.”

Trump signed a separate order late Friday allowing the Pentagon to bring former troops and members of the National Guard back to active duty to help the military combat the virus, the Washington Post said, citing a Pentagon spokesman.

The president also took the long-called-for step of invoking the Defense Production Act to compel auto giant General Motors to quickly honor its commitment to making ventilators, machines crucial to keeping critically ill coronavirus patients alive but which are in short supply in hospitals.

“GM was wasting time,” the president said.

Nationwide the number of coronavirus cases surpassed 104,000. The need for medical supplies is acute in New York state, the US hotbed of the epidemic where 44,635 infections have been confirmed.

The death toll there increased Friday to 519 — up from 385 the previous day — but Governor Andrew Cuomo expressed optimism that the increase in the hospitalization rate has slowed.

Cuomo announced the creation of temporary hospitals at large facilities in each borough of New York City — including at a horse racing track in Queens — modeled on an already-constructed space in Manhattan’s Javits Center.

The national rescue bill pumps $100 billion into hospitals and health facilities in critical need of medical gear like personal protective equipment and intensive care beds, creates a $500 billion loan reserve for large corporations including airlines, and provides $377 billion in grants to small businesses.

It also dramatically expands unemployment assistance, aid that will cushion the blow for a staggering 3.3 million people who filed jobless claims in the week ending March 21.

Americans ‘can’t wait’

“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told colleagues shortly before the chamber passed the measure.

Several lawmakers including top House Republican Kevin McCarthy hailed the bill as a critical lifeline for workers and small businesses.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged a speedy distribution of checks.

“Americans need that money now, they can’t wait for government to take three or four or six months like we normally do,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business Network, adding he expected direct deposits of the cash to arrive in three weeks.

US stocks sank Friday despite the legislative breakthrough. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 4.1 percent, the broad-based S&P 500 shed 3.4 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq tumbled 3.8 percent.

The Senate had passed the huge bill earlier this week.

The vote in the House was notable for the implementation of social distancing rules that prevented lawmakers from all gathering on the floor, leading to unprecedented scenes of members sitting in the upper galleries to allow for sufficient spacing.

With the House in recess this week, leaders had wanted a quick voice vote requiring just a few members present.

But Republican Thomas Massie, who opposed the bill, threatened to stall the measure.

Ultimately the House defeated Massie’s maneuver and passed the legislation but not before Trump savaged his fellow Republican on Twitter as a “third rate Grandstander.”

Pelosi said the $2 trillion rescue plan — the third and by far largest coronavirus legislative measure — will not be the end of government assistance to battered communities.

“We must advance a fourth bill to address continued needs,” she said, noting that state and local governments would need “vastly more” funding to address the crisis.

Xi Tells Trump China And US Must ‘Unite To Fight Virus’

A community volunteer informs residents to get vegetables with a loudspeaker in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on March 13, 2020. STR / AFP
A community volunteer informs residents to get vegetables with a loudspeaker in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on March 13, 2020. STR / AFP

 

China and the United States should “unite to fight” the deadly coronavirus pandemic, President Xi Jinping said in a call with Donald Trump on Friday, as he called for the US to improve relations.

The two countries have clashed in recent weeks over the virus, and Chinese state media said Xi told Trump he hoped the “US will take substantive actions to improve Sino-US relations.”

He also called for the two countries to work together to tackle the virus and said Beijing “wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US”, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Trump sounded a positive tone, tweeting that he had a “very good conversation” with Xi, and that both leaders discussed the pandemic “in great detail”.

“China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the virus. We are working closely together. Much respect,” he wrote.

Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered Beijing this month by repeatedly referring to “the Chinese virus” when discussing the COVID-19 outbreak first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Trump has since dropped the term amid accusations of racism, in another small sign of easing tensions between the two world powers.

Earlier this month a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing also suggested in a tweet that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan.

This prompted Trump to accuse China of spreading misinformation, and the US president repeatedly attacked China’s lack of transparency and the slowness of its initial response to the outbreak.

Xi said Sino-US relations were at a “critical juncture”, CCTV reported, adding that cooperation was mutually beneficial and “the only right choice.”

Friday’s call also took place as the US overtook China as the country with the most confirmed coronavirus cases — the pathogen has now infected more than 82,400 people in the world’s largest economy.

During the call, Xi said China had shared information about the epidemic with the World Health Organization and other countries including the US in a “timely” manner throughout.

“Infectious diseases are the common enemy of mankind, and do not recognise borders or races,” said Xi.

Some provinces, cities and companies in China have provided medical supplies and support to the US as well, Xi added.

At an emergency videoconference chaired by Saudi Arabia Thursday — which both Xi and Trump joined — G20 nations pledged a “united front” in the fight against the coronavirus.

The group said they would inject $5 trillion into the global economy to counter the pandemic amid forecasts of a deep recession.

US Tops World In Virus Cases, Overtaking China And Italy

Medical staff push a patient on a gurney to a waiting medical helicopter at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, to be evacuated on another hospital on March 17, 2020, amid the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
Medical staff push a patient on a gurney to a waiting medical helicopter at the Emile Muller hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, to be evacuated on another hospital on March 17, 2020, amid the outbreak of the new Coronavirus, COVID-19. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

 

The United States on Thursday took the grim title of the country with the most coronavirus infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed $5 trillion to stave off global economic collapse.

More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus, overwhelming healthcare systems even in wealthy nations and triggering an avalanche of government-ordered lockdowns that have disrupted life for billions.

In the United States, more than 83,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, edging out Italy, which has reported the most deaths, and China, where the virus was first detected in December in the metropolis of Wuhan.

The US has recorded 1,178 deaths, while the global death toll stood at 23,293.

“We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens,” US President Donald Trump said.

With about 40 percent of Americans under lockdown orders, Trump urged citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing: “Stay home. Just relax, stay home.”

With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a “united front” to fight the outbreak — along with an enormous financial injection.

“The virus respects no borders,” the leaders said in a statement.

“We are injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic.”

They also pledged “robust” support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe.

But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading barbs over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a “strong and sufficient” financial response that deploys “innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war,” his office said.

– Record one-day toll in France –
Alarmed by the rapid spread of the sickness in Italy, France has taken aggressive action to stem the virus and went under lockdown on March 17.

But the 365 deaths reported Thursday was its highest in a one-day period and, alarmingly, included a 16-year-old girl — a rare case of a young person succumbing to a virus that has devastated the elderly.

“It is very difficult to estimate when the peak will come,” French health official Jerome Salomon said. “People who are ill now were infected before the confinement began.”

“Now there is less contact, people are going out less and get infected less. So we hope there will be fewer people getting sick next week and fewer people going to hospital,” he told reporters.

With hospitals under severe strain, medical workers in Italy and Spain are making painstaking choices.

“If I’ve got five patients and only one bed, I have to choose who gets it,” Sara Chinchilla, a pediatrician at a hospital near Madrid, told AFP.

“People are dying who could be saved but there’s no space in intensive care.”

In Britain, the National Health Service said London’s hospitals are facing a “continuous tsunami” of seriously ill COVID-19 patients, despite a lockdown imposed this week.

And in New York, the virus hotbed in the United States, authorities hope to stem  infections as the city struggles to more than double the number of available hospital beds.

“Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current healthcare system,” Governor Andrew Cuomo warned.

First responders in New York were receiving more than 6,000 calls to the 911 emergency line a day, many from people seeking virus testing.

It is “breaking records. We didn’t have this many calls on 9/11,” said Anthony Almojeria, a leader in the emergency medical services union, referring to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

– Economic devastation –
The pandemic has already, and rapidly, been catastrophic to the global economy.

In the United States, the world’s largest economy, the Labor Department reported that 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week — by far the highest number ever recorded.

Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to “non-essential” businesses.

“It is staggering. We are only seeing the initial numbers; they will get worse, unfortunately,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work.

But Wall Street soared for a third straight day, recouping more of this month’s hefty losses, on expectations for the largest stimulus in US history.

The Senate early Thursday unanimously passed a $2 trillion package that will provide cash payouts averaging $3,400 for a family of four.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi voiced confidence that the House of Representatives would follow suit on Friday.

– Glimmer of hope –
The global lockdown — which also hemmed in India’s huge population this week — tightened further on Thursday as Russia announced it was grounding all international flights, while Moscow’s mayor ordered the closure of cafes, shops and parks.

Tokyo’s millions of citizens have been told to stay home, too, just days after the city was forced to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games for a year.

China said it was barring entry to most foreigners, fearing that imported cases were undermining its success in bringing domestic transmissions way down.

And South Africa came under a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown as its cases climbed to more than 900 — about a third of Africa’s 3,200 cases.

The impact of the virus has stretched well beyond frontline health workers, with billions trapped in their homes and facing what experts say could be lasting psychological harm.

But offering a glimmer of hope, both Italy and Spain have seen lower daily rates of new infections this week.

The World Health Organization called Italy’s numbers “encouraging signs,” but warned it was “still too early to say whether the pandemic is peaking.”

A study from Britain’s Imperial College provided a grim prediction, saying 1.8 million people could die worldwide this year even with swift action to halt the virus.

Worldwide Virus Lockdowns As WHO Warns Young People ‘Not Invincible’

A man walks on an empty street in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on February 29, 2020. Wuhan’s 11 million residents have been under effective quarantine since January 23 as Chinese authorities race to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. STR / AFP

 

Hundreds of millions of people worldwide kicked off the weekend under a coronavirus lockdown, as the global death toll accelerated sharply and the World Health Organization warned the young they were “not invincible”.

The pandemic has completely upended lives across the planet, sharply restricting the movement of huge populations, shutting down schools and businesses, and forcing millions to work from home — while many have lost their livelihoods entirely.

While President Donald Trump insisted the United States was “winning” the war against the virus, individual states dramatically ramped up restrictions, with New York and Illinois joining California in ordering residents to stay home.

The virus death toll surged past 11,000 worldwide, with 4,000 alone in worst-hit Italy where the daily number of fatalities has shot up relentlessly over the past week.

While the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the hardest hit by the virus, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that young people were also vulnerable.

“Today I have a message for young people: you are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks — or even kill you,” Tedros said.

“Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”

China on Saturday reported no new local infections for a third straight day, and the WHO said the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged late last year, offered a glimmer of “hope for the rest of the world”.

But there are growing concerns of a new wave of “imported” infections in the region, with Hong Kong reporting 48 suspected cases on Friday –- its biggest daily jump since the crisis began. Many of them have a recent history of travel to or from Europe.

Across Europe, governments continued to rigorously enforce lockdown measures as the continent’s most celebrated boulevards and squares remained silent and empty even as warmer spring weather arrived.

Italy reported its worst single day, adding another 627 fatalities and taking its reported total to 4,032 despite efforts to stem the spread.

The nation of 60 million now accounts for 36 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths and its death rate of 8.6 percent among confirmed infections is significantly higher than in most other countries.

France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have told people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Bavaria became the first region in Germany to order a lockdown.

Britain, falling in line with its neighbours in the European Union, also announced tougher restrictions, telling pubs, restaurants, and theatres to close and promising to help cover the wages of affected workers.

– US ‘hotbeds’ –
With virus fears gripping the United States, its largest state California — with over 1,000 cases and 19 deaths — told its 40 million residents to stay at home.

New York state, which has reported over 7,000 cases and 39 deaths, followed suit on Friday, ordering its nearly 20 million residents to do the same from Sunday evening.

Trump applauded the New York and California decisions but said he did not think a nationwide lockdown was needed.

“Those are really two hotbeds,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll ever find (a US-wide lockdown) necessary.”

Shortly after the president spoke, the governor of Illinois ordered residents of the midwestern state to stay at home and the Connecticut governor did the same.

The restrictions so far imposed in seven states cover around 100 million people, with the country’s three most populous cities — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — under lockdown.

Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their borders beginning on Saturday.

Meanwhile, a staffer in the office of US Vice President Mike Pence, the pointman for Washington’s response to the outbreak, tested positive for the coronavirus.

The family of country music legend Kenny Rogers, who died aged 81, said Friday they would hold a small private service “out of concern” for the virus emergency.

– ‘Idiots’ –
France said more than 4,000 people were fined on the first day of confinement and ministers described those breaking the rules as “idiots”.

The strict measures follow the template set by China, as a lockdown imposed in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, appeared to have paid off.

Europe now accounts for more than half of the world’s fatalities linked to COVID-19.

Accurate figures are difficult to come by, however, as many of those who die suffer from other illnesses and infection rates are uncertain because of a lack of testing in many countries.

The shadow of the virus is lengthening across Africa and the Middle East too.

Gabon confirmed sub-Saharan Africa’s second known death, with reported cases across Africa standing at more than 900 and rising fast.

In Iran, both supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani promised the country would overcome the outbreak — but still refused to join the rest of the world in imposing heavy restrictions.

In Latin America, Cuba and Bolivia both announced they were closing their borders, and Colombia said it would begin mandatory isolation from Tuesday.

The pandemic has sparked fears of a global recession, battering the world’s stock markets and prompting governments to push huge spending plans to limit the damage.

Rio de Janeiro’s beaches will be off-limits to sunseekers from Saturday, leaving street vendors worried about how they will survive with limited government support.

“As long as I can, I will continue to come here and try to sell cocktails. I still have not thought about what I will do when it is no longer possible,” said Jorge Martins on Ipanema beach.

 

 

-AFP

US Approves Chloroquine To Treat Coronavirus – Trump

President Donald Trump speaks on the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak, while flanked by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP
President Donald Trump speaks on the latest developments of the coronavirus outbreak, while flanked by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House March 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP.

 

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday antimalaria drug, chloroquine, has been approved to treat the new coronavirus.

The announcement follows encouraging research into chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in France and China, but many in the wider scientific community have cautioned more work is needed to prove they really work for COVID-19.

“We’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the (Food and Drug Administration) has been so great,” Trump told reporters, referring to both antimalarials.

“They’ve gone through the approval process — it’s been approved. They took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription.”

The US has recorded 10,755 cases of new coronavirus infection, 154 of them fatal. But authorities expect the number to increase steeply in the coming days because of increased levels of testing after initial delays.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that, while the antimalarials have not yet been formally approved, access was being expanded so that authorities could gather more data.

This is known as “compassionate use.”

“If there is an experimental drug that is potentially available, a doctor could ask for that drug to be used in a patient. We have criteria for that and very speedy approval for that,” said Hahn.

READ ALSO: Woman With Coronavirus Gives Birth To Healthy Baby

“As an example, many Americans have read studies and heard media reports about this drug chloroquine, which is an anti-malarial drug.

“It’s already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria as well as an arthritis condition.

“That’s a drug that the president directed us to take a closer look at, as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done to actually see if that benefits patients.”

Chloroquine is a synthetic form of quinine, which has been used to treat malaria since the 1940s. Hydroxychloroquine shares a similar mechanism of action but is less toxic.

French drug maker Sanofi on Wednesday said it stood ready to offer the French government millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine, sold under its brand name Plaquenil, in light of a “promising” study carried out by Didier Raoult of the IHU Mediterranee Infection in Marseille.

Raoult reported this week that after treating 24 patients for six days with Plaquenil, the virus had disappeared in all but a quarter of them. The research has not yet been peer reviewed and published.

Past failures

It followed a recent study by a Chinese team that was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases in March 9 on the two compounds that also found encouraging results, albeit in a lab setting.

Several clinical trials are also underway in China, where authorities have said the drug produced encouraging results, but the data has not yet been made public.

Writing in the journal Antiviral Research, French scientists Franck Touret and Xavierde Lamballerie urged caution, noting that chloroquine had been proposed several times for the treatment of acute viral diseases in humans without success.

“Its use in the treatment of HIV-infected patients has been considered inconclusive and the drug has not been included in the panel recommended for HIV treatment,” they wrote.

“The only modest effect of chloroquine in the therapy of human virus infection was found for chronic hepatitis C.”

They also said that “the margin between the therapeutic and toxic dose is narrow and chloroquine poisoning has been associated with cardiovascular disorders that can be life-threatening.”

AFP

Italy Virus Deaths Hit Record As Trump Goes On War Footing

A tourist wearing a protective face mask walks in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in the centre of Milan, on February 28, 2020, after COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, spread to Italy. Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy reported nearly 500 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest one-day official toll of any nation, as Donald Trump ordered sweeping new action against the pandemic and declared himself a war president.

With the number of global coronavirus infections shooting past 200,000, governments announced new containment measures and the US Congress approved a $100 billion emergency relief package.

But markets took another beating and braced for grim weeks ahead.

Trump announced the deployment of military hospital ships while, in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a dramatic appeal to citizens.

“Not since the Second World War has our country faced a challenge that depends so much on our collective solidarity,” Merkel said in a television address.

Dire news came out of Italy which reported 475 new deaths. More than 8,700 people have died around the world with fatalities in Europe now topping those in Asia, where the outbreak began in December in China.

Italy has now recorded more than one-third of global deaths and has shut down all businesses and public gatherings — steps that have spread across the world.

“The main thing is, do not give up,” Italian National Institute of Health chief Silvio Brusaferro told reporters.

“It will take a few days before we see the benefits” of containment measures, said Brusaferro.

“We must maintain these measures to see their effect, and above all to protect the most vulnerable.”

French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter called for further “financial solidarity” within the Eurozone, after the European Central Bank announced a 750-billion-euro bond-buying scheme to contain the economic damage from the virus.

Britain, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson had initially chosen a different path, followed the lead of his European counterparts and said schools would shut nationwide from Friday.

The death toll in Britain has topped 100 and lawmakers were cautioned to steer clear of the prime minister’s weekly question time, amid warnings that parliament was a particularly infectious area.

-AFP

US Extends Travel Ban To UK, Ireland; Reviews Domestic Curbs

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 25, 2020, US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in New Delhi. US President Donald Trump announced a news conference from the White House on the coronavirus epidemic February, 26, 2020, with experts warning they expect it to spread in the United States. 
Mandel NGA / AFP

 

The United States said Saturday it was stepping up its fight against the coronavirus and extending a European travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland, while acknowledging that some domestic travel curbs are also being considered.

President Donald Trump has decided to “suspend all travel from the United Kingdom and Ireland” effective midnight Monday EST (0400 GMT Tuesday), Vice President Mike Pence told a White House news conference.

“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home. Legal residents can come home,” Pence said, adding that such people would be “funneled through specific airports and processed.”

Asked about possible travel restrictions within the US, Pence said the administration was considering “a broad range of measures, but no decisions have been made yet.”

“We’re going to continue to follow the facts,” he said. “We’re going to continue to listen to the experts.”

Anger In Europe

European officials have reacted angrily to Trump’s sweeping travel ban, calling on the US for cooperation to fight the pandemic.

The original 30-day US ban on travel from the 26 countries of Europe’s Schengen border-free zone took effect on Saturday, but notably excluded Britain and Ireland.

A senior administration official said Saturday of the new limit on travel from the UK and Ireland that “I do believe it will be the same duration as the Schengen Zone.”

The administration had hoped to stop anyone from the Continent using the UK and Ireland as transit points en route to the US, the official told reporters in a background briefing, “but that is proving operationally very difficult for us.”

The original move caused widespread consternation among travelers.

Britain’s death toll from the novel coronavirus nearly doubled on Saturday, to 21.

Official figures showed the country has 1,140 confirmed cases — an increase of 342 from the day before. But a senior health official has estimated that the number of infected people is more likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000.

The Republic of Ireland — which has taken strict steps to stem the spread of the coronavirus — so far has 70 confirmed cases and one death.

US Lawmakers Pass Coronavirus Relief Package Bill

In this file photo taken on March 5, 2020 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  SAUL LOEB / AFP
In this file photo taken on March 5, 2020 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

The US House of Representatives early Saturday overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus relief package for Americans hit by the outbreak.

The measure passed by 363 votes to 40 and will now move to the Senate. President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the bill before the vote and urged both Republicans and Democrats to back it.

“This Bill will follow my direction for free CoronaVirus tests, and paid sick leave for our impacted American workers,” Trump tweeted, adding that he had directed the Treasury and Labor secretaries to issue regulations to ensure small businesses would not be hurt by the measures.

“I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!” he wrote.

“I will always put the health and well-being of American families FIRST.

“Look forward to signing the final Bill, ASAP!”

 

AFP

Why I May ‘Likely’ Take Coronavirus Test – Trump

US President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said Friday he would “likely” be tested soon for the novel coronavirus, although he stressed he is “displaying no symptoms.”

Trump was pressed repeatedly during a White House news conference on whether he should be tested after coming into contact with a Brazilian official now known to have COVID-19.

The president initially shut down the question, saying that per the advice of White House doctors, “I don’t have any of the symptoms.”

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Trump ‘May’ Add Britain To European Travel Ban

“And we don’t want people without symptoms to go and do the test,” he told reporters.

But when grilled by reporters about his encounter with the official at his Florida resort, he changed tack, saying: “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested” and that he “most likely” would be, “fairly soon.”

“Not for that reason but because I think I will do it anyway,” Trump said.

AFP

Coronavirus: Trump ‘May’ Add Britain To European Travel Ban

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said Friday he was considering adding Britain to a ban on travellers from mainland Europe as London warned the coronavirus outbreak may have infected up to 10,000 people there.

“We are looking at it based on the new numbers that are coming out and we may have to include them in the list of countries that we will, you could say ban, or whatever it is, during this period of time,” Trump told reporters.

READ ALSO: Why I May ‘Likely’ Take Coronavirus Test – Trump

The number of confirmed cases in Britain stands at around 800, with a string of events cancelled, from rugby matches to London’s annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

AFP

Trump Declares State Of Emergency On Coronavirus

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump announced a national state of emergency on Friday, freeing up $50 billion in federal funds for the battle against the coronavirus pandemic as he vowed to “vastly” ramp up testing capacity.

“To unleash the full power of the federal government, I’m officially declaring a national emergency,” Trump told a news conference on the White House lawn.

“The next eight weeks are critical,” he said. “We can learn and we will turn a corner on this virus.”

Trump called on all US states to set up emergency operation centers and said the government was partnering with the private sector to “vastly increase and accelerate our capacity to test” for the virus, amid criticism about a lack of test kits nationwide.

“I’m also asking every hospital in this country to activate emergency preparedness plan to meet the needs of Americans everywhere,” Trump said.

“We’ll remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need and that they’re entitled to. No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever,” he added.

READ ALSO: US Summons Chinese Ambassador For Spreading COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory

The national emergency would also confer broad new authority on the US health secretary to waive a series of regulations, including on telemedicine or allowing hospitals to bring additional staff on board.

US authorities have come under fire for lagging behind in deploying test kits, which leading health experts have said allowed the virus to spread beyond the country’s ability to detect it.

The Trump administration announced earlier Friday it was providing almost $1.3 million in funding to two labs to develop tests that return results in about one hour — DiaSorin Molecular of California and QIAGEN of Maryland.

The US Food and Drug Administration has already given emergency approval to Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche for a new and much faster coronavirus test.

As a result of the Roche approval, Trump said half a million additional tests were expected to be available “early next week,” with details on test locations to be announced Sunday night.

He said he hoped another 1.4 million tests could be available next week, and five million within a month.

AFP