The US President also announced that Vice-President Mike Pence would assume the role of coronavirus Czar, as he sought to calm fears about the COVID-19 epidemic. Trump confirmed that so far only 15 people had been diagnosed with the virus in the US and of those one remained in hospital, eight had returned to their homes and five had fully recovered. As way of comparison, he pointed out that every year between 25,000 to 69,000 Americans died from normal flu.
The US President boasted that the low level of infections was down to his prompt actions to ban non-US citizens from China entering the country.
Trump said that he had been fully vindicated, despite being ridiculed at the time.
He told reporters: “Decisions that were ridiculed from the very beginning.
“A lot of people thought we shouldn’t have done it that early, but we did and it turned out to be a very good thing.”
Asked whether he might extend the ban to cover other countries now experiencing high infection rates, the President replied: “At the right time we may do that, right now it’s not the right time.
“But at the right time, and we are checking people as they come through, specifically for the problem, the problem that we’re dealing with.
“So we’re checking a lot of people coming from South Korea, that’s been hit pretty hard, Italy’s been hit pretty hard.
“China, it’s obvious what’s happening in China, but again the numbers seem to be levelling off and going down in China which is very good news.”
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Trump insisted that the US was “very, very ready for anything” and would even put large cities into lockdown if necessary.
He said his administration was prepared to spend whatever it took to stop the virus and had asked Congress for $2.5 billion in extra funding.
A well known germaphobe, the President also offered some of his own practical advice on how to avoid catching the bug.
He explained: “I do it a lot anyway as you probably heard. Wash your hands. Stay clean.
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“You don’t necessarily have to grab every hand rail unless you have to.
“You know, certain things that you do when you have the flu.”
He added: “I mean, view this the same as the flu.
“When somebody sneezes, I try to bail out as much as possible when there’s sneezing.
“I had a man come up to me a week ago. I hadn’t seen him in a long time and I said how are you doing?
“He said, ‘Fine.’ He hugs me.
“I said, ‘Are you well?’ He says no. He said, I have the worst fever and the worst flu.
“And he’s hugging and kissing me. I went back and started washing my hands.
“So you have to do that.”
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