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13 Mar, 2020 19:33

Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus pandemic, unlocking $50bn in funding

Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus pandemic, unlocking $50bn in funding

US President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, unlocking additional powers and funding for disaster response and getting FEMA involved in the efforts to curb the disease.

“To unleash the full power of the federal government,” Trump said in an address from the White House Rose Garden on Friday, “I am officially declaring a national emergency.” Trump said that the declaration will free up $50 billion in funding to tackle the spread of the illness.

Trump added that he is “asking every hospital in the country” to activate their emergency preparation plans, and ordering every state to set up emergency operations centers.

The Trump administration has been criticized in recent days for failing to roll out Covid-19 tests quickly enough. 

Though Trump stressed that mass testing is likely unnecessary, he said on Friday that “we want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly, and conveniently.” To that end, Trump announced that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new test for the virus, within hours of receiving application from the company responsible, Roche Diagnostics. 

Also on rt.com ‘No tests’: AP reporter trying to get Covid-19 test sent from pillar to post by health authorities, told to ‘stay home’ on Twitter

Testing will be organized by the government, in cooperation with Google, which has put more than a thousand engineers to work on a testing website. Once up and running, the website will direct suspected cases to drive-through testing locations, and then on to further care if necessary.

Trump then announced that  he has waived interest on all student loans held by federal government agencies, and ordered the purchase of “large quantities” of crude oil. The price of oil has been driven down around the world in recent days, both due to the coronavirus pandemic, and due to Saudi Arabia and Russia opting not to cut production. 

Also on rt.com Russia-Saudi revenge against shale oil threatens to crush entire US financial system, Professor Wolff tells Boom Bust

Despite his all hands on deck announcement, Trump has been remarkably laissez-faire with limiting his own exposure to the virus. After meeting with an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro last Saturday, who later tested positive for the illness, Trump told reporters on Friday that as he has “no symptoms whatsoever,” he will not be self-isolating or getting tested himself.

READ MORE: Brazil’s Bolsonaro says he tested NEGATIVE for Covid-19 despite reports

The national emergency announcement comes after 20 US states declared emergencies or disasters due to the spread of COVID-19, with Texas being the most recent. These declarations do not represent some kind of martial law, but mainly unlock additional funding and mandate specific responses from government agencies.

Earlier on Friday, the White House announced a series of measures intended to speed up the roll-out of COVID-19 tests, which have been held back by lack of test kits, regulations and procedures. A federal coordinator has been appointed to oversee testing, and a hotline has been established for labs to get help in obtaining supplies. Furthermore, the  Department of Health and Human Services has allocated $1.3 million to two companies – one in California, the other in Maryland – to develop rapid diagnostic tests.

Also on rt.com ‘I’m not concerned’: Trump brushes off fears he got CORONAVIRUS after Bolsonaro’s comms sec he met in Mar-a-Lago tests POSITIVE

By invoking the Stafford Act powers, Trump has triggered financial and physical disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the same body that came under fire for its less than stellar handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Maria in 2017.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Friday morning there were 1,215 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, of which 36 have been fatal – though news media have since reported a death toll of 41.

As the virus took hold in the US in recent weeks, Trump was fiercely criticized for his assurances that the situation was “very much under control,” seeing his statements as an effort to prop up the stock market. However, Trump’s emergency declaration seems to have done more to boost the market than any tweet or statement thus far. The Dow Jones closed up 9.36 percent after the president’s address, reversing much of the losses of the previous week.

Also on rt.com ‘This is the beginning of the greatest financial crisis in US history’: Peter Schiff makes dire predictions to Boom Bust

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