The Trump administration is sending to the US Congress a budget request for US$2.5 billion to fight coronavirus, the White House said on Monday.

The request came as key US government accounts were running low. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had already tapped into an emergency infectious disease rapid response fund and was seeking to transfer more than US$130 million from other HHS accounts to combat the virus but is pressing for more.

It also came as the outbreak spread beyond China to regions from Italy to Iran that sparked concerns about a pandemic that

More than US$1 billion of the money would go toward developing a vaccine, the White House said.

“Today, the Administration is transmitting to Congress a US$2.5 billion supplemental funding plan to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much needed equipment and supplies,” Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in a statement.

Trump was a vocal critic of former President Barack Obama’s response to the 2014 Ebola scare, which barely touched the US, but was seen as a factor in that year’s midterm elections, which restored control of the Senate to Republicans.

Trump took to Twitter Monday to defend his record.

“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries. CDC & World Health have been working hard and very smart. Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” he tweeted.

Among the needs is funding to reimburse the Pentagon, which is housing evacuees from China – who are required to undergo 14-day quarantines – at several military bases in California.

Democrats controlling the House wrote US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar earlier this month to request funds to help speed development of a coronavirus vaccine, expand laboratory capacity, and beef up screening efforts at US entry points. Azar was slated to testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and the US response to the outbreak is sure to be a major topic.

The stock market dove Monday over coronavirus fears, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping by 3.6 per cent – or more than 1,000 points.

In San Francisco, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a walking tour of Chinatown on Monday to let the public know the neighbourhood is safe and open for business.

Pelosi, a Democrat who represents the heavily Chinese-American city, visited the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, whose owner Kevin Chan, says his business and others are down 70 per cent since the outbreak of the coronavirus.

“Çome to Chinatown,” Pelosi said.

“Precautions have been taken by our city, we know that there’s concern about tourism, travelling all throughout the world, but we think it’s very safe to be in Chinatown and hope that others will come.”

Global stocks tumbled after Italy reported at least six deaths and more than 200 confirmed cases. The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to avoid non-essential travel to South Korea as infections there spiked.

China’s death toll rose to 2,663, an increase of 71. Total coronavirus cases on the mainland climbed to 77,658 as Hubei province reported 499 additional infections.

While the head of the World Health Organisation called the new cases “deeply concerning”, he said the outbreak isn’t yet a pandemic. The WHO also said that Gilead Science’s experimental drug that is being tested for coronavirus may be the only one that will work.

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