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New York gets hospital ship as US dealth toll crosses 3,000

NEW YORK, Mar 31: A military hospital ship arrived in New York Monday as America's coronavirus epicenter gears up for the peak of the pandemic, with emergency restrictions extended as the national death toll passed 3,000.

The navy's 1,000-bed USNS Comfort docked at a Manhattan pier as more US states enforced stay-at-home orders after President Donald Trump abandoned his Easter target for life returning to normal in the United States.

The 894 foot-long vessel – which also has space for a dozen operating rooms – was greeted by cheering crowds after departing Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday.

Its arrival came as Virginia, Maryland and the capital Washington became the latest areas to restrict citizens' movements, meaning almost three-quarters of Americans are now living, or about to live, under various phases of lockdown.

On Sunday, Trump cancelled his plans to re-open much of the United States by Easter – April 12 – and extended social distancing guidelines until the end of April after his top scientists confronted him with data on the rising coronavirus deaths.

He said America's death rate was likely to increase for two weeks, describing as "horrible" a prediction by senior scientist Anthony Fauci that COVID-19 could claim up to 200,000 lives.

Worst-affected New York is ramping up hospital capacity and taking delivery of desperately needed medical supplies as it races against time.

"We have been playing catch up from day one," Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters.

"Don't fight today's fight. Plan for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks from now when you're going to have the apex, and make sure that we're in a position to win the battle," he added.

The Comfort will care for New Yorkers requiring intensive care unrelated to the coronavirus, easing the burden on a hospital network overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients.

The US now has the highest number of confirmed cases in the world – more than 163,000 according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The virus has claimed more than 3,000 lives in the country, including more than 1,200 in New York state.

Some 790 deaths have occurred in New York City, the country's financial capital and the most populous US city.

It is spreading to other areas, notably New Jersey, Louisiana, Illinois and Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis said Monday he did not want passengers from the cruise ship Zaandam suspected of having the virus "dumped" in his state.

New York opened a temporary emergency hospital in the Javits convention center with 2,900 beds on Monday. A field hospital in Central Park is due to open Tuesday.

Four other sites have also been approved to house patients discharged from hospitals to make way for residents suffering from the novel coronavirus.

Flights run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began arriving at New York's JFK Airport as Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city needed 400 more ventilators by the end of the week, describing next Sunday as "D-Day."

The flights, part of 50 planned under "Project Airbridge," are delivering millions of masks, gowns and thermometers for hospitals.

"We are all trying to reuse what we can because you never know when it's going to run out," 38-year-old doctor Peter Liang told AFP, referring to supplies at the Manhattan hospital he works in.

Fauci, who leads research into infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die from "millions of cases."

Trump told Fox News on Monday he expected a spike in cases around Easter, before numbers begin to fall.

"That would be a day of celebration. And we just want to do it right," said Trump, who earlier said he expected the country to "be well on our way to recovery" by June 1.

Fauci said he had no trouble convincing Trump to extend the confinement guidelines.

"It was a pretty clear picture," Fauci told CNN on Monday.

Trump, who initially downplayed COVID-19 pandemic, has oscillated between stressing the seriousness of the outbreak to talking of the need to get people back to work quickly.

A staggering 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the third week of March, by far the highest ever recorded.

China and US must ‘unite to fight coronavirus’: Xi Jinping

BEIJING, Mar 27: China and the United States should “unite to fight” the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the globe, said President Xi Jinping in a call with his US counterpart on Friday, according to state media.

The two countries have clashed in recent weeks over the virus, but Xi told President Donald Trump that China “wishes to continue sharing all information and experience with the US,” said state broadcaster CCTV.

The two leaders appeared to strike a conciliatory tone after 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.

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

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

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

“I hope that the US will take substantive actions to improve Sino-US relations, and both sides can work together to strengthen cooperation in fighting the epidemic,” he said.

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

At G7 meet, Pompeo accuses China of funding Covid-19 ‘disinformation campaign’

WASHINGTON, Mar 26: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the Group of Seven powers were united in opposing China’s coronavirus “disinformation,” but European allies emphasized cooperation to fight the global pandemic.

Foreign ministers from the major industrialized democracies spoke about the crisis by videoconference, scrapping a meeting scheduled in Pittsburgh, but any hope of showing a common front was eroded by the absence of a joint statement.

Pompeo, a sharp critic of Beijing who has gone on the offensive over what he calls the “Wuhan virus,” said he shared a common view with the top diplomats of the other G7 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

“Every one of the nations that were at that meeting this morning was deeply aware of the disinformation campaign that the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in to try and deflect from what has really taken place,” Pompeo told reporters.

Pompeo said that China “has been and continues to be engaged in” a social media campaign that has included conspiracy theories of US involvement.

“This is crazy talk,” he said.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman infuriated President Donald Trump’s administration by suggesting on Twitter that US troops brought the virus to Wuhan, the metropolis where it was first detected late last year.

A spokesman from China’s foreign ministry said Thursday that China strongly condemned Pompeo’s comments, including his use of the term “Wuhan virus”.

“This US politician moves counter to the international consensus and continues to stigmatise China, smearing China’s efforts, trying to use this to shift attention and blame with extremely malicious intent,” said Geng Shuang at a press briefing Thursday.

The virus has killed more than 21,000 people globally, but Beijing has appeared to bring it under control and has sent aid overseas -- including 40 tons of medical supplies to US ally Italy, which has the world’s highest death toll.

On Wednesday, Pompeo minimized China’s efforts and pointed to a US Air Force cargo plane’s aid delivery to Italy as well as private US charity efforts.

China is “now making small sales of product around the world and claiming that they are now the white hat in what has taken place,” Pompeo said.

But he also said the United States sought cooperation, including with China. The two countries’ leaders are set to take part in a virtual summit on the crisis Thursday of the Group of 20 major economies.

“We desperately want to work with every country around the world. This is a global pandemic,” Pompeo said.

German magazine Der Spiegel, quoting anonymous diplomats, said that the joint statement was scuttled by Pompeo’s insistence that it use the term “Wuhan virus” -- a formulation frowned upon by medical professionals who say it is stigmatizing.

Pompeo did not deny the report when asked about it, saying that each minister would speak separately but that they had a “common understanding” on the health and economic crisis caused by the “Wuhan virus.”

France and Germany issued statements on the G7 talks that made no mention of China. Canada said China was raised in “broader discussions.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian “underscored the need to combat any attempt to exploit the crisis for political purposes,” a statement said, in likely a veiled response to Pompeo.

Le Drian “expressed the view that the unity of all in order to effectively combat the pandemic must now take precedence over any other considerations,” it said.

France called for the G7 to find ways to assist Africa, warning that both the continent’s healthcare system and economies were ill-equipped for the global crisis.

Pompeo has accused China of putting the world at risk by initially suppressing news of the virus. Beijing in turn has accused the Trump administration of seeking a scapegoat for its own failures.

White House, Senate reach deal on massive $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill

WASHINGTON, Mar 25: The US Senate and the White House reached an agreement early on Wednesday on a $2 trillion rescue package for the American economy hammered by the coronavirus outbreak that killed more than 700 people and shut down large parts of the country.

The agreement, which followed five days of protracted and acrimonious negotiations that played out publicly, paves the way for the swift passage of a legislation through both chambers of congress in a few days.

The rescue package involves direct payments to Americans and relief for the jobless and is the largest in US history.

“We have a deal,” Eric Ueland, White House legislative affairs director, told reporters shortly before 1 am. “We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.”

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump had expressed optimism about reaching agreement. “I’m pleased to report that we are working to pass the biggest and boldest financial relief package in American history,” he had told reporters at the daily White House briefing on the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

“Senators will soon, hopefully, vote on a $2 trillion bill that will deliver direct cash payments to struggling Americans. No fault of their own. This came out of nowhere. Nobody can imagine this even happened. But it’s not their fault.”

With nearly 200 deaths, New York hardest hit by Covid-19 in US

NEW YORK, Mar 25: US authorities on Tuesday urged anyone who has travelled to and from New York City metropolitan area in recent days to self-quarantine for 14 days and closely monitor their condition. This comes over concerns of people carrying coronavirus and “seeding” outbreaks in other parts of the country.

President Donald Trump has, at the same time, doubled down on his resolve to roll back restrictions and have the country “raring to go” by Easter, April 12. The move has fanned a debate that he started on Monday by first suggesting the country could be ready to get back to business. A decision is expected next week.

More than 700 people have died of coronavirus and more than 55,000 people have tested positive in the United States so far, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The continuing surge in cases has prompted the WHO to acknowledge that the United States could potentially be the next epicentre of the outbreak.

New York City has been hit the hardest with 15,597 confirmed cases and 192 deaths, and it is now in danger of “seeding” outbreaks in other parts of the country through travellers.

“For anyone in the New York metropolitan area who has travelled, our task force is encouraging you to monitor your temperature, be sensitive to symptoms,” Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, said at a White House news briefing.

“And we are asking anyone who has travelled out of the New York City metropolitan area to anywhere else in the country to self-isolate for 14 days.”

Two leading medical experts on the task force had first made that case citing high incidence of new cases and the danger of travellers and New Yorkers leaving the city for their own safety, carrying it to other areas. There have been cases that suggested infected people have left the city.

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force, said because of the high incidence of cases in New York City — 56% of all US cases and 60% of all new cases, 31% mortality — there was a likelihood of people being exposed before leaving the city and they should self-quarantine themselves for the next 14 days “to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina, or out to far, far reaches of Long Island”.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and a member of the task force, added that self-isolation for these people was necessary “because we don’t want that to be another seeding point to the rest of the country, wherever they go”.

These warnings and appeals to people travelling out of New York run contrary to President Trump’s apparent eagerness to end the restrictions and put the country back in business. Trump is getting a push from the experts on the team, including Fauci, who has emerged as the most respected member of the task force.

“You can look at a date, but you got to be very flexible,” Fauci said when asked to comment on the president’s plan to roll back restriction by Easter. “And on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis, you need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do.”

Stay-at-home orders are in effect in 17 states, affecting 175 million people to slow down and prevent the spread of the virus. All non-essential services have been shut down. People can go out to get grocery, food and medicine or to exercise as long as they maintain safe social distance.

WHO 'Very Much' Sided With China On Coronavirus: Trump

WASHINGTON, Mar 25: US President Donald Trump has said that the World Health Organization has "very much" sided with China on coronavirus crisis, asserting that many people are unhappy with the global health agency and feel that "it's been very unfair".

President Trump was responding to a question on allegations by Republican Senator Marco Rubio that the World Health Organization (WHO) showed "favouritism" to China.

Congressman Michael McCaul, ranking member on the House Foreign Relations Committee, has questioned the integrity of the WHO's director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying "that there were several red flags in his past with respect to his relationship with China."

"It (WHO) has been very very much sided with China. A lot of people are not happy about it," Donald Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Wednesday.

President Trump was asked if he agreed that the WHO showed favouritism and the US should re-explore its relationship with the health agency once the dust settles.

"I think there is certainly a lot of talk that it's been very unfair. I think that a lot of people feel that it's been very unfair," President Trump replied.

In a tweet Congressman Greg Steube alleged that the WHO has been a mouthpiece for China during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the WHO and China must face consequences once this pandemic is under control, he demanded.

Senator Josh Hawley echoed Mr Steube's view and demanded the same.

"There need to be consequences here. WHO has sided with China Communist Party against the world in this pandemic," he said in another tweet.

WHO director Ghebreyesus has faced criticism for praising China's leadership for its "determination to end the new coronavirus outbreak".

He has also been accused of conspiring with Beijing in its "propaganda" to hush-up coronavirus cases.

Ghebreyesus had gone to China in January to meet President Xi Jinping, and a WHO team comprising of international health experts working in the country.

"Today I met with Xi Jinping, President of China, in Beijing to discuss next steps in battle against the new coronavirus outbreak. WHO appreciates the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak & the transparency authorities have demonstrated," he had said in a tweet after his meeting with President Xi.

"Just back from China where I held frank talks with President Xi Jinping, who has taken charge of a monumental national response to the coronavirus outbreak. Based on cooperation & solidarity, China has committed to protecting its citizens & all people globally from the outbreak," he said in another tweet.

Globally, the death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 21,293 with more than 471,518 cases reported in over 170 countries and territories, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

N. Korea says Trump’s letter offers anti-virus cooperation

SEOUL, Mar 22: President Donald Trump has sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in fighting the viral pandemic, Kim’s sister said Sunday.

The latest correspondence came as Kim observed the firing of tactical guided weapons over the weekend, drawing criticism from South Korea, as the nuclear talks remain deadlocked.

In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, Kim’s sister and senior ruling party official, Ms. Kim Yo Jong, praised Trump for sending the letter at a time when “big difficulties and challenges lie ahead in the way of developing ties” between the countries.

In the letter, she said Trump explained his plan to “propel the relations between the two countries ... and expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work” in an apparent reference to the global coronavirus outbreak. She said her brother expressed his gratitude for Trump’s letter.

North Korea has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case of the coronavirus on its soil. Some foreign experts question that claim and say an outbreak in the North could cause a humanitarian disaster because of its poor medical infrastructure.

Last month, the State Department expressed concerns about North Korea’s vulnerability to a potential coronavirus outbreak and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness in the North.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Ms. Kim Yo Jong said Trump’s letter is “a good example showing the special and firm personal relations” between the North Korean and U.S. leaders. But she said it’s not a good idea to “make hasty conclusion or be optimistic about” the prospect for bilateral relations.

"In my personal opinion, I think that the bilateral relations and dialogue for them would be thinkable only when the equilibrium is kept dynamically and morally and justice ensured between the two countries,” she said. “Even at this moment we are working hard to develop and defend ourselves on our own under the cruel environment which the U.S. is keen to ‘provide.’”

Earlier, Trump sent birthday greetings to Mr. Kim Jong Un, who was believed to have turned 36 on January 8. Senior North Korean official Kim Kye Gwan said at the time that the birthday messages won’t lead his country to return to talks unless the U.S. accepts its demands.

Kim and Trump have met three times and exchanged letters and envoys on many occasions since 2018, when they launched talks on the fate of Kim’s advancing nuclear arsenal. The two leaders have avoided harsh language against each other and Trump once said he and Kim “fell in love.”

But their diplomacy has largely come to a standstill since the breakdown of their second summit in Vietnam in February 2019, when Trump rejected Kim’s demands for broad sanctions relief in return for a partial disarmament step.

Kim pressed Trump to come up with new proposals to salvage the negotiations by the end of last year. Kim later vowed to bolster his nuclear deterrent, unveil “a new strategic weapon” and warned he would no longer be bound by a major weapons test moratorium.

In recent weeks, North Korea has fired a slew of artillery and other rockets into the sea in what experts say is an attempt to improve its military capabilities. The weapons were all short range and did not pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland. A resumption of long-range missile or nuclear weapons tests by Kim would likely completely scuttle diplomacy with Trump, experts say.

KCNA said Kim watched the test firing of tactical guided weapons on Saturday with Kim Yo Jong and other top officials. South Korea’s military called the demonstration “very inappropriate” at a time when the world is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

South Korea’s military said Saturday it detected two presumed short-range ballistic missiles that flew from a site in western North Korea across the country and landed in the waters off the east coast. The weapons flew 410 km, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Stay-at-home orders in California, New York ‘on pause’

WASHINGTON, Mar 21: Stay-at-home orders have been issued in California, America’s most populous state with 40 million people, and for all non-essential workers in New York state putting it “on pause” as the United States grappled with a surge in the number of coronavirus infections and fatalities amidst concerns about medical supplies.

The United States also closed its southern border with Mexico for all non-essential travels, effective Friday night, by mutual consent as with Canada in the north.

A White House official said new data from Italy, where more people have died of the coronavirus than in the epicenter in China, show mortality rate among men is higher than among women.

Also, two Senators of President Donald Trump’s ruling Republican party dumped stocks ahead of the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the markets, according to two newsreports. They allegedly dumped millions in stocks after a coronavirus-specific hearing for senators. Richard Burr, chairman of the senate intelligence committee, is reported to sold $$628,000 and $1.72 million worth of stock and and Kelly Loffler, the newest member of the senate, sold between $1.27 million and $3.1 million.

California governor Gavin Newsom announced the stay-at-home orders in an online news briefing Thursday. This is a moment we need to make tough decisions,” he said, adding, “This is not a permanent state, this is a moment in time. We will look back at these decisions as pivotal.”

The governor had earlier said he feared 58% of the the state’s 40 million people would be infected by the virus, but he has since tried to dial it down saying he hopes to prevent that new measure and others. California had reported 675 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths as of Wednesday.

At least 12,392 people have been infected across the country and at least 195 have died, according to the New York Times tracker (10,442 infected and 150 dead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Residents are exempted for essential outings, to get grocery or medical supplies, help and attention

New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential to stay home at the news briefing Friday morning. He said these are “the most drastic measure we can take” and the entire state was now “on pause”.

“This is not life as usual. Accept it. Realize it. And deal with it,” he added.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had earlier considered similar measure, and asked New Yorkers earlier in the week to be prepared for, “shelter-in-place”, saying the city was in danger of running out of medical supplies needed to deal with the outbreak. But New York governor Andrew Cuomo disagrees with his fellow Democrat and has publicly ruled it out.

Other cities hit hard by the outbreak have imposed night-time curfew. Such as Hoboken, a New Jersey city across the river from New York City. Residents are prohibited from venturing out between 10 pm and 5 am the next day, except to get food or medical supplies

In Washington state, which has been hit the hardest with 75 coronavirus deaths, all restaurants, bars, dance halls, clubs, theaters, health and fitness clubs, and other similar indoor social or recreational venues have been shut since Monday. Restaurants are only allowed take-out and delivery orders.

US begins first human trial of coronavirus vaccine

SEATTLE, Mar 17: The first human trial to evaluate a candidate vaccine against the new coronavirus has begun in Seattle, US health officials said Monday, raising hopes in the global fight against the disease.

But it may be another year to 18 months before it becomes available, once it has passed more trial phases to prove it works and is safe.

The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists and collaborators at biotechnology company Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The open-label trial will enroll 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years over approximately 6 weeks,” the NIH said. “The first participant received the investigational vaccine today.”

Funding was also provided by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

There are currently no approved vaccines or treatments against the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, which has infected more than 175,000 people across the world since it was first identified in central China in late December.

It has claimed 7,000 deaths, according to a tally, most in China followed by Italy.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” said Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the NIH, using the technical name for the virus that is believed to have originated in bats.

“This Phase 1 study, launched in record speed, is an important first step toward achieving that goal.”

The Seattle trial will study the impact of different doses delivered by intramuscular injection in the upper arm, with participants monitored for side-effects like soreness or fever.

Coronaviruses are spherical and have spikes protruding from their surface, giving them a crown-like appearance. The spike binds to human cells, allowing the virus to gain entry.

The Moderna candidate vaccine carries the genetic information of this spike in a substance called “messenger RNA.”

Injecting human tissue with the spike’s messenger RNA makes it grow inside the body, thereby eliciting an immune response without having actually infected a person with the full-blown virus.

Pharmaceuticals and research labs around the world are racing to develop both treatments and vaccines to the new coronavirus.

An antiviral treatment called remdesivir, made by US-based Gilead Sciences, is already in the final stages of clinical trials in Asia and doctors in China have reported it has proven effective in fighting the disease.

But only randomized trials allow scientists to know for sure whether it really helps or whether patients would have recovered without it.

Another US pharma called Inovio, which is creating a DNA-based vaccine, has said it will enter clinical trials next month.

Regeneron is trying to isolate coronavirus-fighting antibodies that can be administered intravenously to confer temporary immunity, and hopes to start human trials by summer.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of COVID-19 cases are mild, 14 percent are severe and about five percent result are critical, resulting in severe respiratory illness that causes the lungs to fill with fluid which in turn prevents oxygen from reaching organs.

Patients with mild cases recover in a week or two while severe cases can take six or more weeks.

Recent estimates suggest about one percent of all infected people die.

'Very Accurate': Donald Trump Defends 'Chinese Virus' Comment

WASHINGTON, Mar 17: US President Donald Trump doubled down Tuesday on calling the coronavirus spreading rapidly across the world the "Chinese Virus," despite protests from Beijing.

"It did come from China, so I think it's very accurate," Trump told a news conference, defending an earlier tweet in which he used the label for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump indicated that another motive was payback for what he said was China's disinformation campaign blaming the US military for the virus.

"China was putting out information which was false," he said.

"I didn't appreciate the fact that China was saying that our military gave it to them. Our military did not give it to anybody."

US declares emergency to fight Coronavirus

NEW YORK, Mar 15: US President Donald Trump declared a ‘national emergency’ on Friday to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Till Sunday, the US has reported that 2,759 persons have tested positive for coronavirus, with 59 deaths so far. The first reported patient with coronavirus in the US was on January 21.

Here is a quick primer on the US president’s emergency powers and what they actually mean.

What are the legal provisions to declare a national emergency in the US?

The US constitution does not explicitly specify how a state of emergency may be suspended and what it entails in terms of the suspension of rights. Rather, it is the US Congress that has the power to deal with urgent threats, including the power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

However, US presidents have traditionally claimed that the role of commander-in-chief of the armed forces and executive powers vested in them give them “inherent emergency powers”, as an article in The Atlantic explains. With the Supreme Court often hesitating to intervene during the declaration of these emergencies, “the outer boundary of the president’s constitutional authority during emergencies remains poorly defined”.

Over the decades, the US Congress has passed laws that gave additional power to the president, including statutes that were only activated when the chief executive declared an emergency.

In order to regulate the unwieldy system, the National Emergencies Act was enacted in 1976, which allows the president to formally declare an emergency and to specify which statutory authority was activated.

How many times has the US declared a state of national emergency?

Before Trump’s latest directive, seven US presidents had declared national emergencies 63 times under the 1976 Act, according to the Brennan Centre for Justice. The New York-based organised identified 136 statutory powers that are available for a US president to activate by declaration of national emergency.

With the COVID-19 outbreak declaration, the US has 34 current emergencies, which are renewed every year. The oldest one still active is from November 1979, when Jim Carter ordered the freezing of Iranian government properties during the Iran hostage crisis.

In most cases, presidents invoked emergency powers to impose sanctions on foreign countries, entities or individuals. A distant second motivation was for trade regulations. Military action has been authorised through these emergency powers only twice – after 9/11 and to build a border wall in 2019.

What happens when the US president uses emergency powers?

When a president declares a national emergency, he suddenly has more than 136 special provisions available on his fingertips.

President Trump restricts travel from Europe

WASHINGTON, Mar 12: President Trump announced on Wednesday night that he was taking action to stem the spread of the coronavirus by suspending most travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days, beginning on Friday. The restrictions do not apply to Britain, he said.

Trump imposed a 30-day ban on foreigners who have been in the 26 countries that make up the European Union’s Schengen Area in the previous two weeks. The limits take effect Friday at midnight and will exempt American citizens and permanent legal residents and their families, although they could be funneled to certain airports for enhanced screening.

Later on Wednesday night, the State Department issued an advisory telling Americans to “reconsider travel” to all countries because of the global effects of the coronavirus. It is the department’s second-strongest advisory, behind “do not travel.”

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump also said health insurance companies had agreed to extend insurance coverage to cover coronavirus treatments as well as waive related co-payments.

The president added that he planned to soon announce emergency action to provide financial relief for workers who fall ill or need to be quarantined. He said he would ask Congress to take legislative action to extend that relief but did not detail what that would be. He said he would instruct the Treasury Department to “defer tax payments without interest or penalties for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.”

The president, sitting behind the Resolute Desk with his arms crossed, finally appeared to be acknowledging the severity of the virus, calling it a “horrible infection” and acknowledging that Americans should cut back on travel that was not necessary.

It signaled a break from the business-as-usual attitude he had been trying to project as recently as Tuesday, when he urged Americans to “stay calm” and said the virus would soon go away. But Trump continued to anticipate a fast end date to the spread of the coronavirus, even as medical experts have warned that the pandemic will worsen.

“This is not a financial crisis,” he said. “This is just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome as a nation and a world.”

The address capped a day when concerns about the threat of the virus seemed to reach a new pitch and measures to protect vulnerable populations began to upend regular life across the country. Many schools announced they would close indefinitely, some nursing homes banned visitors, and workplaces across the country urged their employees to work from home.

Trump's coronavirus speech

“My fellow Americans: Tonight, I want to speak with you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.

Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic.

We have been in frequent contact with our allies, and we are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people.

This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history. I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.

From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats. This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond, and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.

Our team is the best anywhere in the world. At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years. We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection.

And taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe.

The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots. As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travellers from Europe.

After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans.

To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.

There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.

At the same time, we are monitoring the situation in China and in South Korea. And, as their situation improves, we will re-evaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening.

Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.

We are cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time. These treatments will significantly reduce the impact and reach of the virus.

Additionally, last week, I signed into law an $8.3bn funding bill to help CDC and other government agencies fight the virus and support vaccines, treatments, and distribution of medical supplies. Testing and testing capabilities are expanding rapidly, day by day. We are moving very quickly.

(For) The vast majority of Americans: the risk is very, very low. Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus. The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful.

In particular, we are strongly advising that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits. In general, older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas.

My administration is co-ordinating directly with communities with the largest outbreaks, and we have issued guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.

Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.

Every community faces different risks and it is critical for you to follow the guidelines of your local officials who are working closely with our federal health experts – and they are the best.

For all Americans, it is essential that everyone take extra precautions and practise good hygiene. Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus. Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.

To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief. This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus.

I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.

Because of the economic policies that we have put into place over the last three years, we have the greatest economy anywhere in the world, by far.

Our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong. Our unemployment is at a historic low. This vast economic prosperity gives us flexibility, reserves, and resources to handle any threat that comes our way.

This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.

However, to provide extra support for American workers, families, and businesses, tonight I am announcing the following additional actions: I am instructing the Small Business Administration to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus.

Effective immediately, the SBA will begin providing economic loans in affected states and territories. These low-interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus. To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50bn.

Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted. This action will provide more than $200bn of additional liquidity to the economy.

Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief. Hopefully they will consider this very strongly.

We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus. We made a life-saving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe. We will not delay. I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people. I will always put the wellbeing of America first.

If we are vigilant – and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will – we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus. The virus will not have a chance against us.

No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States. We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world.

We are all in this together. We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family.

As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity.

Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine. Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.

God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you.”

Brazilian official who met Trump tests positive for coronavirus: Report

NEW YORK, Mar 12: A close aide to Brazil’s president who attended a dinner with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend tested positive for coronavirus.

Fabio Wajngarten, President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications secretary, had his diagnosis confirmed by a second test on Thursday, according to a statement from the presidential palace. He was part of the presidential entourage during a trip to Florida earlier this week. Pictures posted on social media show him side-by-side with Trump, wearing a “Make Brazil Great Again” hat.

Bolsonaro cancelled his official agenda on Thursday and remains at the official residence, under medical observation.

“The presidential medical service is adopting all preventative measures to protect the health of the president and all those who accompanied him during a recent trip to the U.S.,” the statement read.

Asked about the news, the U.S. president said he was “not concerned.”

“We did nothing very unusual, we sat next to each other for a period of time,” he told reporters at the White House.

Three other high-ranking authorities accompanied Bolsonaro during his dinner with Trump: Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo; Foreign Affairs Minister Ernesto Araujo, and Institutional Security Minister Augusto Heleno.

Before returning home, Bolsonaro minimized the coronavirus crisis in a speech to the Brazilian community in Miami. “We have a small crisis at the moment,” he said on Tuesday. “Coronavirus isn’t all that the media is talking about.”

Trump helped Apple open its retail store in India: Tim Cook

NEW DELHI, Mar 3: Revealing for the first time that US President Donald Trump batted for Apple to help it get a strong retail foothold in India, the company’s CEO Tim Cook has said that the US administration has worked in Apples favour to help it gain further ground in worlds second largest smartphone market.

After Trump visited India on February 24-25, saying he “may never be excited again about a crowd after going to India,” Cook also announced last week that Apple is set to open its first branded retail store in the country in 2021 and open an online exclusive online store this year.

In an interview with Fox Business, Cook said: “I see India as a huge opportunity for us. For years, we could not enter there unless we entered there with a partner into retail and we did not want to do that. We wanted to maintain control of our brand and so forth”.

“The (Trump) administration worked on this with the Indian government and that change has been made and so we are very positive on entering there online this year and in retail next year,” he told the show host.

Speaking to investors at the annual shareholder meeting at Apple Park in Cupertino, California last week, Cook confirmed the company will open its first offline retail outlet in India next year.

“I don’t want somebody else to run the brand for us. We wouldn’t be a very good partner in retail. We like to do things our way,” the Apple CEO mentioned.

Apple currently has third-party reseller outlets to sell its devices in the country.

There are reports that Apple has leased a location in Mumbai for its upcoming branded retail store but the company is yet to reveal the location.

Apple’s exclusive online store is expected to start functioning in the third quarter this year.

The Cupertino-based tech giant is currently selling its devices in India via third-party offline retailers and e-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon.in.

Welcoming the government’s decision to ease the 30 per cent local sourcing norm in single-brand retail (SBRT), Apple said last year: “We appreciate the support and hard work by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team to make this possible and we look forward to one day welcoming customers to India’s first Apple retail store.”

The plan for opening owned stores would certainly help Apple in giving a controlled experience of its devices and services as it intends and designed them to be, as in a third-party retail environment, many such things cannot be controlled by the brand.

Trump asks drug companies on Coronavirus cure to ‘Get it done’

WASHINGTON, Mar 3: US President Donald Trump sought to show his personal engagement in the fight against coronavirus, meeting with drug company executives on Monday to elicit promises of new medicines and announcing he’ll visit federal health agencies later in the week.

At the White House meeting, executives from Gilead Sciences Inc., Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline Plc, Sanofi, Pfizer Inc. and other manufacturers told Trump they were making rapid progress on vaccines and antivirals to combat the coronavirus, which has infected about 100 people in the country and killed six.

The manufacturers said they hope to have antiviral treatments ready within months and vaccines by next year. Gilead Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day told Trump that his company may test a promising antiviral in Washington State, where all six deaths from the virus have occurred.

“It’s a very optimistic meeting. I didn’t realize you were that far advanced,” Trump said. “Get it done. We need it.”

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump will visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, on Tuesday and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta later this week. At a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday evening, Trump promised that “we’re working hard on it and we’re going to come up with some really great solutions.

“We’re going to reduce the severity of what’s happening, the duration of the virus,” Trump said. “We will bring these therapies to market as rapidly as possible.”

Pence said at a briefing for reporters at the White House that South Korea has begun screening all passengers bound for the U.S. from any of their airports for infection. Italy will implement similar screening within 12 hours, Pence said.

The exit screening will entail “multiple temperature checks in the airports for people before they are boarding,” Pence said at a briefing for reporters with federal health officials.

The U.S. has restricted travel from China and Iran to prevent infected people from entering the country. Asked if those restrictions would be expanded, Pence said “the president was very clear we’re going to follow the facts and listen to the experts every step of the way.”

“The American people should know that we are saying you should not travel to certain sections of Italy and South Korea,” Pence said. “We’ll allow the caseload in those countries to define” that guidance is expanded.

The Washington deaths have been centered around a nursing home near Seattle in Kirkland, where there are a large number of suspected patients. In total, there are at least 18 cases in the state, with at least 14 in King County and four in Snohomish County.

A top US disease expert said the coronavirus is likely becoming a pandemic, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he expects more cases after the state identified its first patient.

6 die from Coronavirus in US

LOS ANGELES, Mar 3: The number of US deaths from the novel coronavirus rose to six on Monday, all in the state of Washington, officials said, signalling the contagion has taken root in the Pacific Northwest.

Vice President Mike Pence announced a treatment for the disease could be available by summer or early fall, but that a vaccine was farther off.

Pence, the administration’s pointman for the crisis, also said the government was moving to screen 100 percent of passengers flying in from Italy and South Korea, two serious virus hot zones.

Five of the six American fatalities have been from King county, the most populous in Washington state and home to Seattle, a city of more than 700,000 people. The sixth victim was from neighboring Snohomish county, officials said.

“The risk for all of us of becoming infected will be increasing,” said Jeff Duchin, a health officer in King County.

“Although most of the cases will be mild or moderate, the infection can cause serious illness and there’s a potential for many people to become ill at the same time.” The state reported four new cases, three from the same nursing home, taking the total number of US cases to more than 90 -- about half of which were people repatriated from either China or a virus-stricken cruise ship off Japan.

Dow Constantine, the top official in King County, said his office was in talks to purchase a motel in which to place people who required isolation, adding: “We have to move to a new stage in the fight to contain, mitigate and manage this outbreak.”

Pence told reporters at the White House that treatments “could literally be available by this summer, or early fall.” He was likely referring to the drug remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed by the pharmaceutical firm Gilead that has already been used to treat one US patient and was moving toward two final stage expansive clinical trials in Asia.

There are numerous vaccines and treatments under development, but remdesivir is the closest to market availability.

Pence added that US pharmaceutical companies had formed a consortium to work together and share information to develop these drugs.

New travel protocols “will ensure that anyone traveling on a direct flight to the United States of America receives multiple screenings at all airports in Italy and South Korea,” he said.

 

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