Donald Trump says two hospital ships will be deployed to New York, but one is undergoing maintenence and both lack a medical crew.
Speaking at a now-daily press conference for the coronavirus task-force, Mr Trump said the ships were preparing to head to New York, to support the healthcare system to cope with the influx of patients.
Although they will not be used to treat COVID-19 patients, the ships will help treat other people to allow hospitals to focus on treating those affected by the outbreak – anticipating a further significant rise in coronavirus cases.
However, NBC News, Sky’s US partner, has learnt that at least one of the ships, the USNS Comfort, is undergoing maintenance and has no medical crew, despite the president saying they were in “tip top shape” and ready for deployment.
The other vessel, the USNS Mercy, also has no sign of a medical crew on board, according to NBC News.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading up the task-force, has also asked Americans to put off elective surgeries, to allow hospitals to focus resources on the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Trump also announced he would sign the Defence Production Act, to encourage manufacturers in the US to make up for the shortfall in medical supplies.
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“Right after we finish this conference, I’ll be signing it and it’s prepared to go,” he said.
Other global coronavirus developments:
- More than 214,000 globally have been confirmed as having COVID-19 and more than 8,700 have died
- The UK is closing all schools from Friday
- Italy and France both have their highest number of deaths in a day
- The European Union has agreed to close its external borders for 30 days
- Holidaymakers in Spain told to return home as the country shuts all its hotels
The US government is also ordering “thousands and thousands” of ventilators, according to the president.
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Speaking about a potential vaccine, he said that clinical trials had stepped up and that one was now being tested on humans – something the World Health Organisation referred to at its own press conference in Geneva on Wednesday.
At the US press conference, the task-force also reiterated its call to young people to listen to government guidelines that called for a 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus, adding that they could be unwittingly spreading the virus – which can be transmitted by people who are asymptomatic.
It comes the same day as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed with Mr Trump to close the border between their countries to stem the rise in North American coronavirus cases.
The US will also stop all non-essential travel across its southern border in Mexico.
The number of confirmed cases in the US stands at 7,324, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 115 deaths.
The country has stopped people travelling in from most of Europe to fight new infections, while many cities have put shut downs in place to limit people’s movements.