Donald Trump has urged the public to stop hoarding groceries during the coronavirus outbreak, telling Americans to “take it easy” and “relax”.
The US president’s message came as many supermarket shelves across the US – and the UK – were emptied, with people stockpiling supplies including canned food, pasta and toilet paper.
America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, took emergency action on Sunday to help the US economy withstand the virus by slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero.
Coronavirus: The infection numbers in real time
In a White House briefing on Sunday, Mr Trump – who has tested negative for COVID-19 – said shops were working to keep up with demand but added “there’s no need for anyone in the country to hoard essential food supplies”.
“You don’t have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax,” he said.
“We’re doing great. It all will pass.
“Can you buy a little bit less, please?”
More from Covid-19
Coronavirus: More than 10,000 armed forces staff put on standby over COVID-19 spread
Coronavirus: PHE leaked document says ‘7.9 million could be hospitalised’
Coronavirus: What it is like on Rome’s empty streets
Coronavirus: No 10 to hold daily news conferences on COVID-19 fight following calls for transparency
Coronavirus: Jeremy Corbyn accuses government of being ‘well behind the curve’ on COVID-19
Coronavirus: Ireland closes all pubs and bars days before St Patrick’s Day
‘We’re doing, I think, really, really well… a lot of good things are going to happen” says President Trump at #coronavirus press conference.
Read the latest on #COVID19 here: https://t.co/Wmkx6lblDwpic.twitter.com/7jxyW2O4ZK
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 15, 2020
Mr Trump said there were “no shortages” but some people were buying three to five times the amount they would normally purchase.
He added that he held a call with the officials from America’s leading grocery outlets who were stocking up even more than they would around Christmas time.
Mr Trump also hailed the “very good news” that the Federal Reserve had slashed its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to a target range of 0% to 0.25%.
The US central bank said that rate would remain until it feels confident the economy has weathered recent events.
It has also dropped its requirements that banks hold cash reserves in another move to encourage lending.
US officials have recorded nearly 3,000 COVID-19 cases and 62 deaths linked to the virus.
The US has lagged behind other developed nations in its ability to test for coronavirus, but Vice President Mike Pence promised that Americans would have access in the days ahead to more than 2,000 laboratories capable of processing tests.
In an effort to combat the spread of the virus, New York City is closing nearly 1,900 public schools, affecting more than a million children.
The US states of Ohio and Illinois have also taken measures by ordering all bars and restaurants to close.
People returning to the US faced long queues as they were screened for coronavirus, prompting federal officials to deploy more staff and Mr Trump to appeal for patience.
The US president said airport checks are “moving as quickly as possible but it was important to be vigilant and careful.
Meanwhile, the German government is trying to stop the Trump administration from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the US.
Sources told the Reuters news agency that the US government is looking into how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German firm CureVac.
The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that Mr Trump had offered funds to lure CureVac to the US, and the German government was making counter-offers to tempt it to stay.
However, Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany, insisted on Twitter that “the Welt story was wrong”.
Sky News will broadcast a special programme at 6pm, with experts answering your questions #AskSkyNews at 12.30pm