Trump continues to play down coronavirus threat

Federal Reserve announces package of stimulus measures to help combat economic impact

The US president Donald Trump declared a state of emergency as the number of cases of coronavirus continued to rise in the United States but was previously criticised for tackling of the public health emergency. Video: The White House/As credited.

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US president Donald Trump played down the threat of the coronavirus on Sunday night, despite the Federal Reserve announcing a dramatic package of stimulus measures to help combat the economic impact of the virus.

“Relax. You’re doing great. It all will pass,” he said at a press conference on Sunday evening, as he noted that consumers were buying more goods than ever before.

It comes amid mounting concern across the United States about the preparedness of the US for the coronavirus pandemic due to a dearth of testing available.

The move by the Federal Reserve – announced on a Sunday evening ahead of markets opening on Monday – is an indication of the deep-seated concern about the impact of disruption from coronavirus on the US economy.

US markets plunged last week, prompting the Fed to pump $1.5 trillion of loans into the short-term money markets on Thursday. Though indices recovered somewhat on Friday, losses have rocked Wall Street.

As well as cutting its benchmark interest rate to a target range of 0 per cent to 0.25 per cent on Sunday, the Fed committed to purchasing $500 billion of treasuries and $200 billion of mortgage backed securities.

Mr Trump, who indicated that he had not been notified of the measures in advance, welcomed the move as he arrived in the White House press room for a press conference.

“It makes me very happy – I want to congratulate the Federal Reserve,” he said. Mr Trump has long called on the Fed to reduce interest rates.

Stocking up

Earlier in the day he held a conference call with senior figures in the retail world, including the heads of Walmart, Whole Foods and Cargill. It comes as American shoppers rushed to supermarkets across the country to stock up on goods amid fears that the number of coronavirus cases is rising.

Speaking at the White House press conference last night, vice-president Mike Pence said that more than 2,900 cases of coronavirus had now been confirmed across 49 states.

“I want to assure you that the administration and the states… have no higher priority than the health and safety of the American public,” he said.

He said that, based on the latest scientific information, “for the American people as a whole the risk of serious illness remains low”.

He said that America has “the most efficient and effective supply chain in the world – and it’s working just fine,” as he called on Americans not to shop for more than they need on a weekly basis.

Earlier in the day, Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allery and Infectious Diseases, warned that the United States “could get as bad as Italy” if proper measures were not taken.

States continued to take individual measures to combat the spread of the disease over the weekend. All public schools in New York city have now been shut. The governor of Illinois announced that all bars and restaurants in the state will close until March 30th.

Some of the country’s most iconic cultural sites and sporting events have been cancelled, including the US Masters, the Boston Marathon and Broadway shows.