United States President Donald Trump’s administration is asking Congress for $2.5bn to fight the fast-spreading coronavirus, the White House said on Monday.
The White House said more than $1bn of the requested virus budget would go towards developing a vaccine, while other funds would be used for therapeutics and the stockpiling of personal protective equipment such as masks.
With financial markets falling on concerns that the virus will have a significant effect on the global economy, the Trump administration is eager to show it is prepared to combat the virus despite the limited number of cases so far in the US.
The virus has spread to some 29 countries and territories beyond mainland China, with outbreaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy.
“The Trump administration continues to take the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease very seriously,” said Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.
“Today, the administration is transmitting to Congress a $2.5bn supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities, and to procure much-needed equipment and supplies.”
Of the $2.5bn request, $1.5bn represents new funding. The rest would come from funds already budgeted by Congress, such as unused money to fight the Ebola virus. The administration requires congressional approval to redirect that money to fight the coronavirus.
House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a Democrat, said in a statement the Trump administration’s funding request was “woefully insufficient to protect Americans from the deadly coronavirus outbreak”.
The US has not seen the virus spread through its communities the way that China and other countries have experienced but health officials are preparing for the possibility even as Americans affected so far have been quarantined.
There have been 53 confirmed US cases of the new coronavirus so far – 14 in people diagnosed in the US and 39 among Americans repatriated from the outbreak’s epicentre of Wuhan, China, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).