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US COVID-19 toll reaches 6, Trump wants vaccine at ‘maximum speed’

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New York, March 3, 2020 –

The coronavirus has killed four more Americans in suburban Seattle, taking the total death toll in the US to six, while New York reported its first case in Manhattan and US President Donald Trump cranked up the pressure on Americas leading pharmaceutical companies to “get it done” although his own health experts have cautioned that a vaccine was at least 12 months away.

Reacting to the rapid domestic outbreak with no known travel links, the Trump administration said nearly a million tests could be done in the US by the end of the current week itself.

The US now has about 100 total cases across 14 states.

“It is remarkable to think that there may well be a vaccine going to clinical trials within the next six weeks,” US Vice President Mike Pence said at a White House briefing on Monday evening.

Last week, soon after his return from India, Trump made Pence his point person to lead the US coronavirus response.

“We’re working very hard to expedite the long process of developing the vaccine and we’re also moving at maximum speed to develop therapeutics so we can help people recover as quickly as possible,” Trump said at his meeting with pharma majors.

All of the US deaths have been in Washington State, which has declared an emergency.

Researchers are saying that the virus may have been incubating for weeks in Washington State.

The virus has already infected 90,000 people around the world and killed more than 3,000. The World Health Organisation is now reporting that nine times more cases have surfaced outside of China, where the crisis began, in the last 24 hours.

Officials leading America’s response to the virus are pointing to possible school closures and “social mitigation” as a way of cutting back on community spread. Meanwhile, until drastic measures actually kick in, the US states are readying for the new normal, armed with best practice public health measures.

“You can’t have it in this many places on the globe and in this many places in the country and it not be in New York,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters.

He said the first case reported from New York is a woman in her “late 30s” who returned from Iran and went to hospital with mild respiratory symptoms. She is now being kept at home and is not serious, Cuomo said.

Schools across the US have begun basic health screenings for students, checking vitals, preparing for the worst and hoping the crisis blows over. Leading universities are advising students against non-essential travel.

Pence said that within the next 12 hours, “100 per cent screening” will begin for all direct flights of all airports across Italy and South Korea. US has the highest level travel restrictions in place for Iran, Italy and South Korea and is considering more clampdowns.

Slowly but surely, public spaces in the US are emptying, cleaning supplies are running low in grocery stores and the tension is palpable everywhere.

The first vaccine trials are expected to begin in about two months and it would take a further three months to determine safety and efficacy which means the fastest possible time frame would still be upwards of six to eight months before a breakthrough, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned.

Fauci explained that healthy people are at low risk and would typically recover after mild symptoms similar to the annual flu. Outliers would typically surface but that does not change the US assessment of “low risk” for now, he said.

On the economic front, the Group of 7 countries is planning to hold an emergency call Tuesday to collaborate on rebooting growth in the time of coronavirus.

The last time the G7 came together like this was after the financial crash of 2008.  (Agency)

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