Trump returns to US as country warily eyes coronavirus’ global spread

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President Donald Trump returned to Washington on Wednesday to face increasing concerns over the coronavirus as United States public health officials warned Americans to prepare for a possible outbreak and financial markets remained on edge.

Trump, back from a two-day visit to India, said he would meet with US officials on the coronavirus before holding a news briefing, even as he blamed the media for growing public concerns and blasted Democrats, who have questioned his administration’s response.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who will brief the president, said that while the virus was contained in the US, Americans need to get ready for a potential outbreak as person-to-person transmissions spread outside of China.

“Things are stable here…And at the same time we need to be ready to do things to contain an outbreak if it were to occur,” Fauci told CNN in an interview.

“If we have a pandemic, then almost certainly we are going to get impacted.”

Officials at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday said the virus’ global march had raised concern about its spread in the US, even as it remained unclear if and when that might happen, or how severe it might be.

The Republican president has been largely out of Washington since 18 February, first visiting a string of western US states before heading off to India.

During his travels, he praised US health officials while downplaying the possible spread of the virus and its impact on financial markets.

But Trump has been increasingly alarmed at the drop in the stock market, which he considers a barometer of the health of the economy, which he sees as key to his re-election bid.

The CDC has advised Americans to not visit China and South Korea, and to exercise caution when traveling to Japan, Italy or Iran.

It is also considering expanding airport screenings to target passengers from countries that have seen a recent spike in cases such as Italy and South Korea, NBC News reported.

Trump is seeking $2.5 billion from Congress to boost its virus response, but Democrats have warned that amount falls far short of what is needed.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday called for $8.5 billion to prepare.