US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, opening up access to up to $50 billion in federal funds to combat the fast-spreading novel coronavirus that has claimed 41 lives in the country.
The deadly virus, which has killed over 5,000 people globally, has spread to 46 of the 50 US states, with nearly 2,000 cases being reported from across the country.
“It could get worse. The next eight weeks are critical,” Trump told a press conference at the Rose Garden in the White House.
“To unleash the full power of the federal government, today I’m officially declaring a national emergency,” he announced and said that the action will open up access to up to $50 billion in the fight against coronavirus.
The deadly virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year, has infected more than 134,000 people globally.
The US president has asked every state to set up emergency operation centres immediately. All hospitals have been directed to activate their emergency preparedness plan, so that they can meet the needs of citizens, Trump said.
The emergency orders confer broad new authority to the secretary of health and human services and gives doctors, hospitals and health care providers maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and care for patients.
The president said that “we want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly and conveniently”.
Using federal emergency authorities, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new test for the virus, Trump said, adding that he expects that up to half a million additional tests will be available early next week.
The administration, he said, has been in discussions with pharmacies and retailers to make drive-through tests available in critical locations identified by public health professionals.