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Trump invokes war powers to combat coronavirus; US-Canada shut border


Washington, Mar 18: Describing himself as a "wartime president", Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that his administration will invoke the Defence Production Act, a move which will gear up the US armed forces to manufacture testing kits and other equipment, including masks and gloves, on a war footing to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Donald Trump

The Defence Production Act (DPA) allows the authorities to expedite and expand the supply of resources from the US industrial base to support military, energy, space and homeland security programmes.

The Act, which was passed by Congress in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, is normally used during counter terrorism operations, emergency preparedness activities and protection and restoration of critical infrastructure.

Addressing reporters at the White House, President Trump said he would sign the DPA "in case we need it" as the government stepped up efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Responding to a question, Trump said, "I view (myself) as a, in a sense, a wartime president. I mean, that's what we're fighting. I mean, it's a very tough situation here."

The president said his administration is ordering "thousands and thousands of ventilators" as part of its efforts to curb the outbreak.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US surged past 6,500, with 115 deaths.

Health experts fear the number to jump significantly in the coming days.

"We will win (the fight against coronavirus)," Trump said, adding nobody has been swamped like this.

Trump also dismissed projections that the US unemployment rate could soar to 20 per cent.

He said his administration is working very hard to help all sections of the society and businesses.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was also present at the White House, told reporters that the US is increasing the number of tests performed everyday by the thousands.

Referring to various reports of young people getting seriously ill, White House Task Force Response Coordinator Deborah Birx said, "There may be a disproportional number of infections among millennials. But we have not seen any significant mortality in children."

Brix said the number of confirmed cases in the US can "dramatically increase over the next 4-5 days" as a result of swifter processing of tests.

The president announced the closure of border with Canada in a tweet. "We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!" The United States closed the border with Mexico earlier and also banned travel from Europe, China, South Korea and Iran.

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