WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Feb 26) said the risk to the American people from the novel coronavirus was "very low" thanks to actions taken by his government like travel restrictions on Chinese travellers.
"Because of all we've done the risk to the American people remains very low," he said, adding that his decisions were "ridiculed" at the beginning.
The administration requested from Congress US$2.5 billion in funding to develop treatments, vaccines and national stockpile of essential equipment, but Trump said he was happy to spend more if it was on offer by Democrats.
"We're ready to adapt and we're ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads," he told a news conference.
"We were asking for 2.5 billion, and we think that's a lot, but the Democrats and I guess, Senator Schumer wants us to have much more than that. And normally in life I say we'll take it," he said.
"We're going to spend whatever's appropriate, going to do whatever they want," he added.
Trump also announced the appointment of Vice President Mike Pence as the coronavirus tsar to lead the US response to COVID-19.
"I'm going to be announcing exactly right now that I'm going to be putting our vice president Mike Pence in charge," Trump said.
"Mike will be working with the professionals and doctors and everybody else that's working on the team."
President Trump said the US was prepared to escalate its response to the virus on a "much larger scale" should the pathogen continue to spread.
"We do have plans for a much larger scale should we need that," he said.
"We have hospitals in states that make rooms available and they're building quarantine areas where you can keep people safely."
Asked if the US had increased its stockpile of protective equipment such as face masks and gowns, he said: "We've ordered a lot of it, just in case we need it."