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Trump says he took coronavirus test and expands travel ban to UK and Ireland | US news


Donald Trump has announced new measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis, including expanding the existing US travel ban to cover the UK and Ireland.

In a lunchtime briefing at the White House, the president also confirmed he had taken a test for the virus himself, although the result was not yet available.

“I decided I should based on the press conference yesterday,” he said, referring to Friday’s gathering in the White House Rose Garden during which he shook hands with a number of people.

Trump had also come under pressure after exposure to sufferers including a member of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s entourage in Florida last weekend. On Saturday it was reported that Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, who was also at Mar-a-Lago, had been tested after displaying relevant symptoms.

On Friday Trump’s physician, Dr Sean Conley, said there was no need to quarantine the president or implement a test because the encounter with Bolsonaro aide Fabio Wajngarten was “low risk”, although another Mar-a-Lago guest who has tested positive also interacted with the president.

On Saturday, Trump told the media he had taken a test after all, announcing it at a press conference to which reporters were admitted only after having their temperatures taken, and from which one unidentified journalist was turned away.


Donald Trump reveals he has been tested for coronavirus – video

Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump entered self-isolation on Friday after meeting an Australian politician later revealed to have tested positive. News of Trump’s test followed days of controversy highlighted by his continuing to shake hands with people, even as official advice recommended “social distancing”.

“It becomes a habit. People walk up to me, they shake hands, it’s kind of a natural reflex,” Trump said. “Shaking hands is not a great thing to be doing right now, I tend to agree.”

Trump said he took his test on Friday night and would await the result for “two days, whatever it is”.

He also indicated the extension of the travel ban, already in place for 26 European nations. The vice-president, Mike Pence, duly announced that travelers from the UK and Ireland would be subject to the ban from midnight US eastern time on Monday.

The president also raised the prospect of some kind of domestic travel restrictions, and advised the public: “If you don’t have to travel I wouldn’t do it.”

Trump welcomed legislation passed by the US House that will help fund paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, free testing and other measures to help Americans affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It will provide strong support for American families and communities in dealing with the coronavirus,” he said.

Nonetheless, the administration’s response remains subject to criticism, particularly after the press conference on Friday. There, Trump announced a national emergency, paving the way for billions of dollars to be made accessible to authorities attempting to slow the pandemic.

“It opened up avenues we would never be able to open up without it,” he said at the Saturday briefing. “It will make more than $50bn available to us in disaster relief funds. And that’s available for states, territories and local governments. A lot of people are benefiting from it.”

But on Friday Trump also announced a new self-diagnosis website created by Google, only for the tech giant to deny the project was on anything like the scale outlined; said “I don’t take responsibility at all” when asked why the US lagged behind other countries in testing; and reacted angrily to a question about why a White House office for pandemic response was closed in 2018.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), there are 1,629 cases of coronavirus in the US with 41 deaths, and 46 states and the District of Columbia have reported infections. Other estimates, including Trump’s, are higher.

Concerns have been expressed that the US does not have enough hospital beds or ventilators. As many as 20% of coronavirus infections could require patients to receive mechanical ventilation. If estimates of more than 1m infections prove accurate, there could be more than 200,000 such cases.

According to a Johns Hopkins study based on data from 2010, US acute care hospitals own about 62,000 full-featured ventilators. The study, published in February, reported an additional 98,000 that can provide basic function.

The CDC Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) has an estimated 8,900 ventilators. At the White House on Friday, Trump said: “We have ordered a large number of respirators just in case.”

Across the US, authorities have declared emergencies, closed schools and restricted public gatherings. In New York City the largest public school system in the US remains open, a key support for millions. Pressure on the mayor, Bill de Blasio, is increasing.

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced on Saturday that the state had recorded its first coronavirus fatality, an 82-year-old woman with pre-existing medical issues. Cuomo said the state had 524 confirmed cases, 117 hospitalised, but said officials believe thousands have the virus.

On Capitol Hill, the relief bill passed just before 1am, after two days of talks between the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Agreement came after Trump signaled his support.

Pelosi thanked Democrats for their patience. Trump and the speaker never communicated directly and Trump did not thank Pelosi directly on Saturday.

The legislation now goes to the Senate. It ensures free testing for those who need it while increasing access to benefits including family medical leave, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, spending on health insurance for the poor and food programmes for children and the elderly.

On Friday, a federal judge blocked an administration attempt to force nearly 700,000 people off food stamps, a key benefit for poor Americans. District court judge Beryl Howell cited the coronavirus outbreak and said the attempted action was capricious, arbitrary and probably unlawful.

The economic impact of the impact continued, meanwhile, as ​​Apple announced that all stores outside China would close ​for two weeks.



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