United States President Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to spend whatever was appropriate to respond to the novel coronavirus.
The administration requested from Congress $2.5 billion in funding to develop treatments, vaccines and national stockpile of essential equipment, but Trump said he was happy to spend more if it was on offer by Democrats.
“We were asking for 2.5 billion, and we think that’s a lot, but the Democrats and I guess, Senator Schumer wants us to have much more than that. And normally in life I say we’ll take it,” he said.
“We’re going to spend whatever’s appropriate, going to do whatever they want,” he added.
Trump also affirmed the US was prepared to escalate its response to the novel coronavirus on a “much larger scale” should the pathogen continue to spread.
“We do have plans for a much larger scale should we need that,” he said.
“We have hospitals in states that make rooms available and they’re building quarantine areas where you can keep people safely.”
Asked if the US had increased its stockpile of protective equipment such as face masks and gowns, he said: “We’ve ordered a lot of it, just in case we need it.”
– Risk of coronavirus to US ‘very low’ –
Trump said the risk to the American people from the novel coronavirus was “very low” thanks to actions taken by his government like travel restrictions on Chinese travellers.
“Because of all we’ve done the risk to the American people remains very low,” he said, adding that his decisions were “ridiculed” at the beginning.
– US Vice President Mike Pence as coronavirus tsar –
Trump also announced he was appointing Vice President Mike Pence to lead the US response to the novel coronavirus.
“I’m going to be announcing exactly right now that I’m going to be putting our vice president Mike Pence in charge,” Trump said.
“Mike will be working with the professionals and doctors and everybody else that’s working on the team.”
– US coronavirus risk could ‘change quickly –
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned the US public that while the novel cornavirus remains contained in the US for the time being, the situation could escalate.
“The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States,” he told a briefing.
– New virus travel restrictions –
Trump hinted the US could consider travel restrictions on South Korea, Italy and other countries badly hit by the novel coronavirus.
“At the right time we may do it, right now it’s not the right time,” he said in response to a reporter’s question on the subject.
“South Korea’s been hit pretty hard, Italy’s been pretty hard, China is obvious what’s happened in China but again the number seems to be levelling off and going down in China, which is very good news, so we’ll see what happens.”