Trump approves $8bn to fight COVID-19

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Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar looks on as President Donald Trump shows a spending bill to combat the Coronavirus, at the White House, March 6, 2020, in Washington.


By VOA News

U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation Friday releasing $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the outbreak of the Coronavirus, a day after confirmation that it has spread to a suburb minutes away from the White House.

The measure provides money for possible treatments and vaccine development to help state and local governments respond to the threat.

One such local government is Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb outside Washington that confirmed its first cases Thursday. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency after three county residents were diagnosed shortly after returning from undisclosed overseas destinations.

The funding bill includes more than $3 billion for vaccine development, $800 million for researching treatments, $2.2 billion for prevention and response, $1.25 billion for global containment measures, and $1 billion to support state and local health agencies. It also authorizes doctors and nurses to administer tele-health services for Medicare, a government-funded health care program for seniors.

The funding comes as U.S. officials said Friday there are 245 confirmed cases and 14 deaths reported so far.

Worldwide, the number infections Friday topped 100,000 while the death toll exceeded 3,400.
A staff member blocks the view as a person is taken by a stretcher to a waiting ambulance from a nursing facility where more than 50 people are sick and being tested for the COVID-19 virus, Feb. 29, 2020, in Kirkland, Wash.
During his daily update, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated that all countries make containment their highest priority, calling on them to find, test, isolate and care for every case.

Tedros stressed that slowing the epidemic saves lives and buys time for preparedness, as well as for research and development.

US preparations

On Friday, Trump visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the southeastern city of Atlanta, Georgia, where the pathogen is being researched.

Amid criticism over a shortage of test kits, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday 1 million test kits for COVID-19 are to arrive this weekend at U.S. labs.

Five U.S. states — Maryland, California, Florida, Washington and Hawaii — have declared states of emergency because of the virus.

Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska reported their first cases Friday.

U.S. Forces Korea said Friday that one of its workers in South Korea has tested positive for the virus, the seventh USFK employee to contract the virus.
Truck drivers sit on a shelter beside trucks parked alongside a road near the closed Pakistan-Iran border in Taftan on Feb. 25, 2020, as fears over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus escalate.
Borders remained closed for the fifth day Friday between Iran, which ranks third among affected countries more than 4,700 cases, and neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The closings created logjams of hundreds of vehicles full of fresh produce along the Pakistan-Iran border near the Pakistani town of Taftan and in the Balochistan provincial capital of Quetta.

“Our vehicles are loaded with fresh fruit, which is now deteriorating,” a produce transporter from Taftan told VOA’s Urdu service Friday. “Our transport is all jammed.”

During a visit to Quetta Friday, Pakistani Interior Minister Ijaz Shah said he is expediting the return of 2,000 Pakistani pilgrims in Iran to prevent the accumulation of visitors at the border. He said 3,000 pilgrims had previously returned home.

Iran announced 1,000 new cases and said its death toll rose to 124.
A man wearing a mask walks in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, March 6, 2020.
The Vatican reported its first coronavirus case Friday. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said its health clinic has been closed for a deep cleaning, but its emergency room remains open.

Countries confirming their fist cases of the virus Friday include Cameroon, Togo, Slovakia and Serbia.

The threat appears to be waning in China, where the outbreak erupted in December.

Officials in Hubei, a central province of China, said new case numbers in the province, not including the city of Wuhan where the virus began, were zero over the past 24 hours for the first time during the outbreak.

The WHO said Thursday there are about 17 times as many new cases reported outside China now than inside China itself.
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