United States President Donald Trump has announced that he will be seeking US$2.5 billion from Congress to help fight the coronavirus epidemic. The funds will be used for vaccines, treatment and protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
The request came after the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had tapped into its emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was seeking to transfer more than US$130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus.
Trump also made the fund request after the pandemic had begun affecting stock performances worldwide, following news of the outbreak in Iran, Italy and South Korea. A sudden surge in coronavirus infections outside of its epicenter in Hubei, China has raised concerns that the pandemic has reached a new level. Spikes in infections have occurred in Iran, with 47 cases of confirmed infections and seven deaths as well as in Italy, with 229 cases and seven deaths.
More than US$1 billion of the requested funds will be allocated to efforts in creating a vaccine against the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19). There is currently no vaccine available against COVID-19.
Military activity cutback
The US and South Korean militaries have said that they would need to cut back on joint training due to fears of the spread of coronavirus. The joint training cutback between the two countries is the first indication of the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, which has now affected US military training.
At least 13 South Korean troops have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo. As of February 24, 833 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in South Korea, leaving eight people dead.
Pelosi deems request ‘inadequate’
Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has deemed the US$2.5 billion request inadequate.
“Americans need a coordinated, fully-funded, whole-of-government response to keep them and their loved ones safe. The President’s request for coronavirus response funding is long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency,” tweeted Pelosi on February 25.
US confirms 53 coronavirus cases
The US now has 53 confirmed coronavirus cases, including those from evacuated flights, according to health officials on February 24.
The 39 evacuees from the Princess Diamond cruise ship are said to be among the confirmed cases.