Trump names VP Pence man in charge of coronavirus response

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Media captionTrump puts Pence in charge of coronavirus response

US President Trump has appointed his Vice-President Mike Pence to coordinate the government response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Both men told a White House news conference that the risk to the American people remained very low.

The announcement came as new cases of Covid-19, the infection caused by the Wuhan coronavirus, continue to spread at a rapid pace around the world.

Sixty cases have so far been reported in the US.

The most recent was confirmed earlier on Wednesday.

Speaking at a White House press conference, Mr Trump expressed confidence that the US would be able to handle coronavirus.

“We’re very, very ready for this,” Mr Trump said. He expressed confidence that a vaccine could be developed soon.

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Some US pharmacies are already experiencing mask shortages

However, Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he did not expect a vaccine to be ready for a year to a year-and-a-half at the earliest.

The news conference came as Mr Trump was criticised for earlier suggesting in a tweet that the media had fanned unnecessary alarm over coronavirus “to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible”.

“USA in great shape!” he tweeted.

However, he admitted at his news conference that the US should prepare in case the virus spread. “Every aspect of our society should be prepared,” he said.

Alex Azar, the US health secretary, said the White House had developed a plan to focus on five priorities, including better disease surveillance, local government response coordination, developing therapeutics, and increasing manufacturing of personal health protection equipment, like masks.

More US cases are to be expected, Mr Azar said.

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