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Donald Trump declares national emergency over coronavirus pandemic

Trump declares national emergency over COVID-19
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump has now declared a national emergency over COVID-19, which will free up $50 billion in aid, and waives restrictions for hospitals in their response. As Abigail Bimman reports, life in the country has largely ground to a halt.

U.S. President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Today, I am officially declaring a national emergency. Two very big words,” he told reporters outside the White House Rose Garden Friday.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — What happens if Trump signs emergency declaration over COVID-19?

The action clears the way for up to $50 billion of support to be provided to local and state governments, he said.

Coronavirus outbreak: As COVID-19 spreads, Trump declares U.S. emergency
Coronavirus outbreak: As COVID-19 spreads, Trump declares U.S. emergency

Trump also ordered each state to set up emergency operations centres and each hospital to activate its emergency preparedness plan.

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Trump announced a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities, as his administration has come under fire for being too slow in making the test available.

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The partnership will include drive-thru testing in some locations and an online portal to screen those seeking to get tested.

Alex Azar, the U.S. secretary of health and human services, has been granted additional authority, Trump said.

He’ll be able to waive parts of laws and regulations to give health-care providers and hospitals “maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and to care for patients,” Trump said.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump surprised to hear Justin Trudeau’s wife has tested positive for COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Trump surprised to hear Justin Trudeau’s wife has tested positive for COVID-19

He also said Washington would be waiving the interest on federal student loans and purchasing strategic reserves of oil.

Congress has already approved a US$8.3-billion package to fight COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

There are more than 1,700 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

–With files from the Associated Press