President Donald Trump declares 'national emergency' over rising coronavirus threat

14 March 2020, 00:36 | Updated: 14 March 2020, 00:46

Donald Trump has announced a national emergency
Donald Trump has announced a national emergency. Picture: CSPAN

By Kate Buck

President Donald Trump has declared coronavirus to be a national emergency in the US.

In an address in the White House Rose Garden, Mr Trump said he would "unleash the full power of the federal government" to combat Covid-19.

In declaring a national emergency, the government will be able to do things which would usually not be permitted.

Mr Trump said he was also giving US secretary of health and human services secretary Alex Azar emergency authorities to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals "flexibility" in treating patients.

It will also open up 50 billion US dollars for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak.

Mr Trump said the US had made "tremendous progress" compared to other areas of the world.

Currently, there are almost 2,000 cases of Covid-19 in America, and 41 people have died.

Mr Trump spoke from the White House Rose Garden
Mr Trump spoke from the White House Rose Garden. Picture: PA

But in his comments - which began with him praising himself - Mr Trump said he didn't think Americans needed to rush to be tested for the virus.

"We don't want people to take a test if we feel that they shouldn't be doing it, he said.

"And we don't want everybody running out and taking -- only if you have certain symptoms. We don't want everybody taking this test. it's totally unnecessary"

"Through collective action and determination we will overcome the threat of the virus," he added.

However, when asked if he was being "selfish" for not isolating Mr Trump said he would "most likely" be tested for Covid-19.

Mr Trump entertained Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, just before he tested positive for the virus.

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Mr Trump added that he is not self-isolating as he is showing "no symptoms".

The speech marks a major change in opinion from the President, who only two weeks ago said Covid-19 was "just like the flu".

He has since gone on to ban travel to the US from countries within the Schengen area of the EU, as cases in those countries continue to soar.

He also said that the UK could soon be added to his travel ban after case numbers rose "precipitously" in the last 24 hours.

When asked when possible travel restrictions might be put in place, he said the "Taskforce is looking at it very strongly" and it may be considered.

Donald Trump said a travel ban could soon be extended to the UK
Donald Trump said a travel ban could soon be extended to the UK. Picture: PA

Further advice given today rules that any US citizen who returns from Europe will be subject to screening and will have to self-isolate for 14 days.

He added that the US decision to ban travel from China "saved countless lives".

Mr Trump said that any interest on federal student loads will be waived until further notice to help ease the financial burden on anyone who needs it.