US President Donald Trump talks to the media in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Reuters
US President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency as the World Health Organisation named Europe the new epicenter of the coronavirus, with countries sealing borders, shutting schools and cancelling events in a frenzied attempt to slow the ballooning pandemic.
President Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package in Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.
From the Rose Garden, Trump said, "I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.
Wall Street stocks rallied Friday as financial markets endured a rollercoaster ride after a week of spectacular losses triggered by fears that the deadly outbreak will lead to a global recession.
"To unleash the full power of the federal government, I'm officially declaring a national emergency," Trump said, announcing $50 billion in federal funds to battle the contagion.
The measure came as infections and deaths soared in Europe, with WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying the continent now had "more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China."
He described it as a "tragic milestone", and warned it was impossible to say when the virus would peak globally.
The overall death toll jumped to more than 5,000, including nearly 1,500 in Europe, with total infections topping 140,000 internationally, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.
Italy, Spain as well as Iran — which have emerged as virus hotspots — all clocked a dramatic rise in cases and fatalities in the past 24 hours, while infections were reported in Kenya and Ethiopia, the first in east Africa.
Venezuela declared a "state of alert" after confirming its first two cases, and Colombia closed its border with Venezuela and restricted the entry of foreigners who have been to Europe and Asia in the last 14 days.
Governments have been pushing through tough restrictions to contain the spread of the disease and unveiling big-bang emergency funding plans to try to limit the economic damage.
Trump said the US would buy large quantities of crude oil for strategic reserves and waived student loan interest during the crisis, stressing that the "next eight weeks were critical."
The US House of Representatives early Saturday overwhelmingly passed a virus relief package for Americans hit by the outbreak.
Leaders of the G7, the world's richest economies, will hold an extraordinary summit via videoconference on Monday to discuss the pandemic.
The virus has torn up the sporting and cultural calendar, with top-flight events from Broadway to English Premier League football scrapped.
The outbreak reached new heights with several public figures from Hollywood actors to politicians and even the Canadian first lady catching the infection.
Norway PM tells children it is OK to feel scared; WHO chief urges all nations to ‘test, test, test’; Rolls Royce, Ford asked to make ventilators; hotels may be used as hospitals.
The coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in China late last year, has quickly marched across the globe, infecting nearly 200,000 people and killing 7,900 as governments scramble to contain it.
Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the WHO, accusing it of botching the global coronavirus response and of being a "puppet of China."
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s praise for a man who held up a royal portrait at a protest site in Bangkok has drawn controversy in Thailand, winning acclaim from monarchists and scorn from protesters.
Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah will consult with other rulers to discuss proposals by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the palace said on Saturday, after sources told Reuters the premier had asked the king to declare a state of emergency.
Italy’s Campania region, based on the southern city of Naples, said on Friday it would impose a lockdown to tame the coronavirus and urged the whole country to follow suit as new infections hit a record high.