Donald Trump downplays coronavirus risk as he puts Mike Pence in charge of response

Donald Trump sought to downplay the coronavirus risk to US citizens after placing vice president Mike Pence in charge of his nation’s response. 

The US president insisted the threat to Americans from Covid-19 remained “very low” and an outbreak was not inevitable.

But health officials in the country pushed for the public to prepare for further cases. 

Commenting on the virus spreading across the US, Mr Trump said: “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 the outbreak, which began in China and has seen thousands of people infected worldwide, “will end”. 

“You don’t want to see panic because there’s no reason to be panicked,” he added. 

Despite these comments from the president, Dr Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the US does expect to see more cases. 

President Donald Trump said an outbreak was not inevitable as health authorities urged people to prepare (Getty Images)

Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases said while the US had contained the outbreak at present, citizens should prepare for an outbreak.

President Trump’s press conference was described as “incoherent” by Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, an adviser to the World Health Organisation, who blasted him as “ignorant to the situation” as he spoke to MSNBC. 

House speaker Nancy Pelosi hit out at the Trump adminsitration’s response to the virus, branding it “opaque and chaotic”. 

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Thus far there have been 60 confirmed cases in the US, including 42 passengers returned from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan. 

The latest patient was diagnosed in California. How they contracted the virus is unclear as they have not travelled abroad and are not thought to have been exposed to an infected person prior to their diagnosis. 

As the US makes preparations its military cancelled drills in South Korea, where the virus has killed 13 people. 

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It comes as governments around the world ratchet up their response to the outbreak. 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said “there is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus”, as his nation introduced emergency measures to deal with the situation. 

While Denmark and Estonia became the two latest countries to confirm their first cases. 

It was revealed yesterday that the UK was cranking up its response, as numbers of infections rose worldwide. 

Across the globe the infection, which first broke out in China, has infected more than 80,000 people and killed nearly 2,800. 

The majority of cases and fatalities have been in mainland China. 


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