Trump says risks low as US reports first case with no known contact, Latest World News - The New Paper

Trump says risks low as US reports first case with no known contact

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK : President Donald Trump told Americans the risk from the coronavirus remained "very low," and placed Vice-President Mike Pence in charge of the US response to the looming global health crisis.

At a White House briefing, Mr Trump defended his administration's handling of the crisis and said health experts were "ready, willing and able" to move quickly if the virus spreads.

Mr Trump made his comments as public health officials warned Americans to prepare for more cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed an infection of the coronavirus in California in someone who had not travelled outside the US or been exposed to a person known to have the virus, a first for the country.

How the person was infected was not known. It brought the total number of cases in the US to 15, according to the CDC.

At the White House, Mr Trump said he was not ready to institute new travel restrictions for countries such as South Korea and Italy that are dealing with outbreaks - although he could not rule it out.

The State Department raised its travel alert level for South Korea and urged Americans to reconsider going there.

The CDC has advised Americans to not visit China and South Korea, and on Wednesday stepped up travel warnings for Iran, Italy and Mongolia.

"The risk to the American people remains very low," Mr Trump said, flanked by Mr Pence and public health officials. He said the spread of the virus in the US was not "inevitable" and then went on to say: "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."

Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that while the virus was contained in the US, Americans must prepare for a potential outbreak.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement that the Trump administration "has mounted an opaque and chaotic response to this outbreak".

Mr Trump is seeking US$2.5 billion (S$3.5 billion) from Congress to boost the government's virus response, an amount Democrats said falls far short of what is needed. - REUTERS