There are not enough coronavirus testing kits for Americans who want them, US vice president Mike Pence has admitted.
He said: “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward”, before adding: “We’ve made real progress on that in the last several days.”
Mr Pence was asked by president Donald Trump in February to coordinate the US government’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
US health officials say they expect to get enough coronavirus tests this week to test around 400,000 people.
Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said her agency would also supply kits by the end of the week for a further 75,000 people.
Meanwhile, President Trump was warning that the outbreak “certainly might have an impact” on the economy.
His words came a week after New York’s Dow Jones recorded its biggest one-day points fall in history – down 4.4%, putting US markets on course for their worst week since the height of the 2008 financial crisis.
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There were some gains the following day but on Thursday the Dow Jones fell another 3.6%., extending two weeks of wild swings in the market, with stocks fluctuating 2% or more for the fourth day in a row.
When asked about whether the outbreak has hurt the economy, Mr Trump said on Thursday: “It certainly might have an impact. At the same time, I have to say people are now staying in the United States spending their money in the US, and I like that.”
He also praised Mr Pence for “working 20 hours a day or more” on the coronavirus response.
Some 233 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 18 states, with 12 people having died, nine of them residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, Seattle, in the state of Washington.
A cruise ship is stranded off the coast of California after a former passenger died from the virus and several others fell ill.
The Grand Princess, which has more than 3,500 passengers and crew (including more than 140 Britons), was due to dock in San Francisco on Wednesday but remains at sea while tests are carried out.
Testing equipment have been lowered onto the ship’s deck by a military helicopter and officials said results were expected on Friday.
Princess Cruise Lines said fewer than 100 people aboard had been identified for testing.
Why is Italy struggling so much with the virus?
The centre of Europe’s worst outbreak has started a 10-day shutdown of its education system, with schools and universities all closed.
The government has also urged people to stay at least one metre apart, placed restrictions on visiting relatives in nursing homes, and told elderly people not to go outside unless it is absolutely necessary.
According to data being collated by Johns Hopkins University in the US, Italy has 148 deaths from 3,858 cases.
How does COVID-19 attack the human body?
Iran has 107 deaths from 3,513 confirmed cases and the country has also closed schools and universities.
There are new checkpoints limiting travel between major cities and President Hassan Rouhani has called for artists and academics to help cheer up those quarantined at home.
He said state television should show “happier” programmes, adding: “I urge all artists, scientists, psychologists and all who can bring smiles to people’s faces, come into the social media.”
The infection numbers in real-time
South Korea has confirmed 6,482 cases with 40 deaths.
A shortage of face masks has seen new rules banning them being exported and limiting each shopper to buying two masks a week.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in to express condolences over the health crisis.
Mainland China reported 143 new cases on 5 March, up slightly from the 139 announced the previous day. It also said 31 more people had died.
China still has the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases – more than 80,500 of the world’s 98,000, and 3,012 deaths.
Around 6,000 people are still in a serious condition in hospital.
China’s president Xi Jinping had been due for a state visit to Japan – the first for a Chinese leader since 2008 – but it was postponed due to virus fears.
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