Trump deploys hospital ships in coronavirus ‘war’
WASHINGTON : The United States is to deploy military hospital ships to fight the outbreak, US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, as he likened himself to a "wartime president" and invoked a Korean War-era law.
New York governor Andrew Cuomo said Mr Trump was dispatching the navy's 1,000-room USNS Comfort to the city's harbour.
The move comes as the number of deaths in the US from Covid-19 reached 115, with confirmed cases soaring to 7,323, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
US stocks suffered deep losses as Mr Trump tried to downplay fears that the unemployment rate in the world's number one power could spike to 20 per cent because of the fast-spreading epidemic.
Mr Cuomo said Mr Trump had told him that the 270m Comfort would be sent to New York "immediately", although it was not clear when the military vessel would dock in the US financial capital.
"It's an extraordinary step," Mr Cuomo told reporters, adding that the ship had around 1,000 rooms, including "operating rooms".
Mr Trump said at a daily White House briefing that the fight against the virus was a war.
"I view (myself) as a, in a sense, a wartime president.
"I mean, that's what we're fighting. I mean, it's a very tough situation here," he told reporters.
He added that the United States would "defeat the invisible enemy", and do it "even faster than we thought".
"It will be a complete victory," he said.
Mr Trump told reporters that, as well as Comfort, the USNS Mercy hospital ship would also be deployed.
Navy Spokesman Samuel Boyle said the ships would not treat Covid-19 patients directly but would assist the treatment of other patients in coastal locations where doctors and nurses are focused on the virus.
A defence department source told AFP the Comfort's readiness to sail would be "more like weeks than days".
Mr Trump also invoked the Defence Production Act, signed in 1950 during the Korean War, allowing the government to compel businesses to sign contracts and thus expand production.
It is expected to help speed up production of protective masks and other equipment for medical personnel. - AFP