US Politics: Trump promises 'total victory' in war against coronavirus

Trump said he now considers himself a wartime president
Trump says the US is at war with coronavirus
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Donald Trump has said the US will achieve "total victory" in its war against the "invisible enemy" of coronavirus. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

We are going to defeat the invisible enemy. I think we are going to do it even faster than we thought."

- Donald Trump

Donald Trump has stepped up his rhetoric around the coronavirus outbreak, saying the US is now in a "war with an invisible enemy", and pledging that the country will achieve "total victory".

There have been more than 9,300 cases of Covid-19 - the new illness caused by coronavirus - in America, and 150 deaths confirmed so far. Approximately 220,000 people around the world are known to have contracted the virus, with more than 8,800 deaths.

Trump yesterday (March 18) signed a coronavirus relief package to guarantee provisions including free virus testing.

'At war'

In a press conference at the White House, Trump said he considered the US to be on a war footing in its battle against coronavirus, adding that he now views his role as that of a "wartime president".

He had previously faced criticism for seeking to downplay the significance of the virus outbreak, which has now been labelled a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Trump said all Americans "must sacrifice together" and "will come through together".

He added: "It's the invisible enemy. That's always the toughest enemy.

"But we are going to defeat the invisible enemy. I think we are going to do it even faster than we thought, and it'll be a complete victory. It'll be a total victory."

The president reiterated this point on Twitter, calling on all Americans to understand that the country is "at war" with coronavirus. He went on to say that the virus is "no match for the spirit and resolve of the American people".

Trump has repeatedly described Covid-19 as "the Chinese virus", leading to a question from a reporter about whether such language could be considered racist.

"It's not racist at all, no, not at all," the president responded. "It comes from China... I want to be accurate."

Congress and the Fed take action

Congress has been taking action to step up the country's response to the outbreak, with Trump yesterday signing a relief package that was approved earlier in the day by the Senate, passing by a majority of 90 votes to eight.

The confirmation of the bill means free virus testing will be made available to anyone who needs it, while employees at companies that have 500 workers or fewer will be entitled to paid sick, family and medical leave. There will also be increased funding for food welfare.

Making money available for people affected by Covid-19 to take paid leave is expected to come at a cost of some $105 billion (£90 billion).

Congress is also thought to be in discussions with the White House about additional measures to help the economy cope with the impact of coronavirus, which could cost as much as $1.3 trillion.

In an emergency move at the weekend, the Federal Reserve announced that it was cutting its benchmark interest rate to near zero. This was the most drastic action taken by America's central bank since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Fed's rate-setting committee released a statement saying the virus outbreak had "harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States".

It added: "The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses."

Stocks continue to suffer

Investors weren't convinced by the action, with Wall Street futures tumbling immediately after the announcement, continuing a downward spiral that has brought US stock markets to their lowest point for more than three years.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by more than 7%, the S&P 500 shed nearly 5% and the Nasdaq Composite fell by 4%.

There were more positive signs ahead of the start of US trading on Thursday, with futures rising slightly after the European Central Bank announced fresh stimulus measures to keep the financial system afloat.

In London, the FTSE 100 mounted an early rally, before dropping off again to fall back into negative territory towards the end of the morning.

Experts have commented that the accelerating spread of coronavirus and worldwide restrictions on movement are cancelling out efforts by policymakers to prop up economic activity.

Analysts at UBS Global Wealth Management CIO said in a research note: "In the absence of credible signs that infection numbers in the western world can be controlled, volatility is likely to remain elevated."

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