Donald Trump walks from Marine One of the White House in Washington after returning from Florida. AFP
Concern that President Donald Trump himself could be exposed to the coronavirus through contact with two Republican lawmakers loomed Monday as US stocks plummeted, feeding growing national anxiety.
Trump, who flew back to Washington after a weekend golfing at his Florida resort and having dinner with Brazil's right-wing president, has spent weeks dismissing the seriousness of the threat.
But after an emergency meeting with administration staff, he told journalists that he would propose "very substantial" economic measures to Congress on Tuesday. These will include tax relief and aid for workers in the gig economy who worry about calling in sick.
Trump said he would hold a press conference to discuss the measures on Tuesday, adding the coronavirus — which has killed 26 people in the US — has "blindsided the world."
The run on stock market prices robbed Trump of one of his main talking points ahead of the November presidential election. The Dow Jones closed 7.8 percent lower in the worst session since 2008.
And with pictures of a virus-hit cruise ship constantly on live television, Trump's tweet Monday that "life & the economy go on" seemed increasingly out of touch.
Alarm mounted further after at least two Republican lawmakers who recently met with the president announced they were going into self-quarantine, fearing that they were exposed to the virus at a conservative conference just outside Washington.
One of them, Representative Matt Gaetz, had traveled with Trump on Air Force One on Monday.
Another, Representative Doug Collins, was with Trump Friday during a coronavirus briefing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters.
Trump's incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, also went into self-quarantine Monday after learning he may also have been exposed at the same conference.
Although he is not exhibiting symptoms, and a precautionary test came back negative, "he'll be self-quarantined till the 14 day period passes Wednesday," his spokesman said on Twitter.
The spreading virus also raises questions over whether Trump will be able to continue holding the large rallies at the heart of his reelection campaign.
Trump, in a rare Oval Office address to the nation on Wednesday night, said the month-long restriction on travel would begin late on Friday, at midnight. After days of playing down the coronavirus threat, he blamed Europe for not acting quickly enough to address the "foreign virus” and claimed that US clusters were "seeded” by European travellers.
US President Donald Trump said that it has been "weeks" since he touched his face as a precaution against the coronavirus epidemic and that it was something that he "misses".
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Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, another stark reminder that not even one of the nation’s most secure buildings is immune from the virus.
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