UK (Sky News)

Coronavirus: Donald Trump signs $2.2trn relief bill as New York pleads for hospital beds

By March 28, 2020 No Comments
Improvised hospital rooms are seen at the Jacob K Javits Convention Center in New York

Donald Trump has signed an unprecedented $2.2trn (£1.8tn) coronavirus relief bill to help American citizens and businesses affected by the outbreak.

The US president said the bill would “deliver urgently needed relief” and would put Americans “first”.

It was signed into legislation as New York’s governor urgently called for thousands more hospital beds for coronavirus patients, warning the situation would last “weeks and weeks and weeks”.

President Donald Trump signs off on the $2 trillion coronavirus aid package
President Donald Trump signs off on the $2trn coronavirus aid package

Andrew Cuomo said 40,000 temporary beds would be needed across the state – and 4,000 in New York City alone.

New York is preparing temporary hospitals, including one which has been set up in a convention centre, but is looking to put up more.

“This is going to be a long day, and it’s going to be a hard day, and it’s going to be an ugly day, and it’s going to be a sad day,” Mr Cuomo said.

New York is the epicentre of the outbreak in the US. There are more than 44,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases across the state, and the number of people admitted to hospital passed 6,000 on Friday.

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The US has now passed 100,000 confirmed cases in total, leading the world in the most number of cases, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Mr Trump signed the relief bill in the Oval Office, after the House of Representatives gave near-unanimous approval in a vote.

Mr Trump signed the bill in the Oval Office
Mr Trump signed the bill in the Oval Office

The Senate passed the bill unanimously late on Wednesday.

The legislation will prop up most Americans with payments of $1,200 (£963) and increase jobless benefits for millions who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

President Trump, who had earlier rejected Mr Cuomo’s pleas for tens of thousands more ventilators, on Friday also invoked the Defence Production Act to force car giant General Motors to produce more breathing machines.

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The US president had earlier criticised General Motors for not making them quickly enough.

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump claimed manufacturer General Motors had cut the number of ventilators it said it could provide for coronavirus patients.

The president wrote: “As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out. They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed ventilators, ‘very quickly’.

“Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar.”

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Car giants General Motors and Ford have teamed with ventilator makers to produce more of the life-saving devices.

But Mr Trump called for General Motors to “start making ventilators, now”.

He wrote: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”

General Motors said in a statement it will be building ventilators with Ventec Life Systems, a Seattle-based company, and will help Ventec ramp up production.

The company said its teams “have been working tirelessly” to produce ventilators.

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“Retooling is under way and we are poised to deliver the first ventilators next month with capacity of more than 10,000 monthly,” it added.

“We know that there is a global back-order of critical care ventilators. We’re committed to doing everything we can to help – including donating our resources at cost to support the fight against COVID-19.”

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Meanwhile, Ford is working with GE Health Care to increase production and plans to manufacture a simplified ventilator design starting next month.

“Ford is pulling out all the stops to quickly and safely provide vitally needed equipment for patients, first responders and healthcare workers,” the company said.

Toyota Motor Corp said it was “finalising agreements to begin working with at least two companies that produce ventilators and respirators to help increase their capacity”.

New York has called for more ventilators to help its coronavirus response
New York has called for more ventilators to help its coronavirus response

In an interview with Fox News on Thursday night, Mr Trump questioned whether hospitals were exaggerating the number of ventilators needed.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he said.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you’re going to major hospitals sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now, all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”