U.S. President Donald Trump announced a national state of emergency on Friday, freeing up $ 50 billion in federal funds to battle the coronavirus pandemic, as he promised “intensely” to increase testing capacity.
“To unleash all the power of the federal government, I am officially declaring a national emergency,” Trump said at a news conference on the White House lawn.
“The next eight weeks are critical,” he said. “We can learn and we will turn the corner on this virus.”
Trump urged all U.S. states to establish emergency operations centers and said the government was partnering with the private sector to “greatly increase and accelerate our ability to test” the virus, amid criticism of the lack of test kits all over the country.
“I am also asking all hospitals in this country to activate the emergency preparedness plan to meet the needs of Americans everywhere,” said Trump.
“We will remove all obstacles necessary to provide our people with the care they need and are entitled to. No resources will be spared, absolutely nothing,” he added.
The national emergency would also give the US Secretary of Health broad and new authority to waive a number of regulations, including on telemedicine or allowing hospitals to bring additional personnel on board.
US officials have been criticized for being delayed in deploying test kits, which leading health experts said allowed the virus to spread beyond the country’s ability to detect it.
The Trump administration announced on Friday that it was providing nearly $ 1.3 million in funding to two labs to develop tests that return results in about an hour – DiaSorin Molecular of California and QIAGEN of Maryland.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already given emergency approval to Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche for a new, much faster coronavirus test.
As a result of Roche’s approval, Trump said that half a million additional tests should be available “early next week”, with details of the test locations to be announced Sunday night.
He said he expected another 1.4 million tests to be available next week and five million in a month.