Trump creates coronavirus task force

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 30 (PTI) US President Donald Trump on Thursday created a coronavirus task force to lead his administration's response to the deadly virus which has killed 170 people and infected 7,736 others in China, and spread to 20 countries, including India.

The task force is led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and is coordinated through the National Security Council, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

It is composed of subject matter experts from the White House and several US government agencies, and includes some of the country's foremost experts on infectious diseases, she said.

Members of the task force have been meeting on a daily basis since Monday.

'At today's meeting, which the President chaired, he charged the task force with leading the United States government response to the novel 2019 coronavirus and with keeping him apprised of developments,' Grisham said.

The task force will lead the administration's efforts to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information, she said.

According to Grisham, the President's top priority is the health and welfare of the American people.

'That is why, in 2018, President Trump signed the National Biodefence Strategy, which improves speed of action in situations such as this. The administration, led by the President's task force, will continue to work to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus,' the White House Press Secretary added.

Named as 2019-nCoV, the virus has hit all provinces in China, including the remote region of Tibet, mostly due to travellers from Wuhan city, the ground zero of the epidemic, as the virus claimed 170 lives, infected 7,736 others and spread to 20 countries, including India.

As the spread of the virus intensified, many countries, including India, started preparation to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province.

A number of global airlines, including Air India, British Airways, Lion Air and Indigo airlines have suspended their flights to Chinese cities as Beijing struggled to contain the rapid spread of the virus.

India, the US, the UK and Germany have already issued travel advisories against travelling to China. Beijing too has been asking Chinese not to travel at home and abroad in view of the virus. PTI LKJ CPS