Donald Trump has downplayed the threat of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, telling Americans the risk remains “very low,” as public health officials warned the public to prepare for more cases.
The US president placed Mike Pence, the vice president, in charge of the US response to what threatens to become a pandemic. Mr Trump defended his administration’s response to the crisis at a White House briefing with his coronavirus task force, as New York City announced plans to provide up to 1,200 hospital beds if needed and the US stock market fell for the fifth day in a row.
There are 59 coronavirus cases in the US, the health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, said, including 42 American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship which was quarantined in Japan.
Speaking at a White House briefing with his coronavirus task force, Mr Trump said he would accept whatever emergency spending Congress decided was appropriate for the crisis.
The US president said he was not ready to institute new travel restrictions for countries dealing with outbreaks, such as South Korea and Italy, although he could not rule it out.
“The risk to the American people remains very low,” Mr Trump said, flanked by Mr Pence and public health officials.
“We’re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads,” he said, adding the spread of the virus in the US was not “inevitable.”
“It probably will, it possibly will. It could be at a very small level, or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens we’re totally prepared,” he said.