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Trump administration asks for $2.5 billion to battle coronavirus

People wearing respiratory masks wait to be given a 10-minute access to shop in a LIDL supermarket in groups of 20 people on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020 in Casalpusterlengo, southwest Milan, Italy. Casalpusterlengo is one of the 10 small towns placed under lockdown earlier this morning as a second death from coronavirus sparked fears throughout the Lombardy region. (Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images/TNS)

The Trump administration said it has asked Congress for $2.5 billion to battle the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came on the same day that global financial markets were shaken over reports that the illness had spread to Italy and South Korea. U.S. stock benchmarks slid more than 3% on Monday, with the S&P 500 Index falling the most since February 2018.

“Today, the Administration is transmitting to Congress a $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 Office of Management and Budget said in a statement on Monday night. “We are also freeing up existing resources and allowing for greater flexibilities for response activities.”

More than $1 billion of the money would be dedicated to creating a vaccine, and manufacturing and distributing it, according to a person familiar with the matter. Other parts of the request would be put toward stockpiling of protective masks and therapeutic programs, said the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss health policy deliberations.

The person familiar with the matter said that $535 million of the $2.5 billion would come from funds that were not spent during U.S. efforts to combat the Ebola virus.

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President Donald Trump, who is on a visit to India, tweeted earlier Monday that “the Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which began in China’s Hubei province, has infected some 80,000 people across the world. More than 2,600 people have died of the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it is preparing as if the virus’ spread in the U.S. is inevitable and that border-control measures to screen travelers will only slow the outbreak, not stop it.

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© 2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.