WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is asking Congress for $ 2.5 billion to fight fast-spreading coronavirus, including over $ 1 billion for vaccines, the White House said Monday.

PHOTO FILE: Passengers arrive at LAX from Shanghai, China, after a positive coronavirus case was announced in the Orange County suburb of Los Angeles, California, the United States, on January 26, 2020. REUTERS / Ringo Chiu / File Photo

With financial markets fearing that the virus will have a significant impact on the global economy, the Trump administration is eager to show that it is ready to fight the virus despite the limited number of cases so far in the United States.

The virus has spread to around 29 countries and territories beyond mainland China, with outbreaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy. [L3N2AO07M]

“The Trump administration continues to take the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 very seriously. Today, the administration is sending Congress an additional $ 2.5 billion financing plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response and procure the necessary equipment and supplies, “said spokeswoman Rachel Semmel. of the White House Management and Budget Office.

The money will be used for therapy, vaccine development and storage of personal protective equipment such as masks, the White House said.

Of the $ 2.5 billion request, $ 1.5 billion represents new funding. The rest would come from funds already provided by Congress, as unused money to fight the Ebola virus. The administration requires congressional approval to redirect that money to fight coronavirus.

The House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations Committee, Democratic Nita Lowey, said in a statement that the Trump administration’s funding request is “painfully insufficient to protect Americans from the coronavirus epidemic.”

House president Nancy Pelosi said late on Monday that the additional funding requested by Trump is “underpowered” and “completely inadequate to deal with this emergency”.

“The House will quickly promote a strong and strategic funding package that will fully address the scale and severity of this public health crisis,” said Pelosi in a statement.

The United States has not seen the virus spread through its communities as China and other countries have experienced, but health officials are preparing for the possibility, although the Americans affected so far have been quarantined.

So far there have been 53 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the United States – 14 in people diagnosed in the United States and 39 among Americans repatriated from the epicenter of the Wuhan epidemic in China, and from the cruise ship Diamond Princess quarantined in Japan, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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U.S. health officials have warned that cases among repatriated citizens are likely to increase.

The CDC warned Americans on Monday to avoid traveling to South Korea because of the virus.

“We have worked aggressively to combat the spread of this virus, trying to prevent it in the best way possible to get into this country,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters.

Trump was at odds with his own White House advisers over the Chinese coronavirus response. He tried to minimize the impact of the virus, saying it could fade away in April with a warmer climate – something that health experts said is unknown.

Trump praised the work of Chinese President Xi Jinping, although his advisers questioned the reliability of Beijing’s shared information on the virus and expressed frustration over his reluctance to accept the United States’ experience in fighting it. .

The Trump administration is also struggling with where to send Americans evacuated by the Diamond Princess who has proven positive for the virus after withdrawing plans to quarantine them at a federal facility in Alabama.

In a Monday statement, HHS cited a “rapidly changing situation”, but said that the center of Alabama was not “needed at the moment” and that it was looking for alternatives.

Reporting by Jeff Mason and Susan Heavey; Further reports from Caroline Humer in New York, Manas Mishra and Kanishka Singh in Bangalore and Makini Brice, Ted Hesson and Eric Beech in Washington; Peter Cooney editorial staff

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