Coronavirus: Trump wants to send Americans US$1,000 cheques to cushion economic shock

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Trump speaks about the coronavirus alongside members of the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House, March 17, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump announced a plan on Tuesday (March 17) to send money to Americans immediately to ease the economic shock from the coronavirus crisis and said military-style hospitals will likely be deployed to virus hot zones to care for patients.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, appearing with Trump in the White House press briefing room, said he was talking with congressional leaders on a plan to send cheques immediately to displaced Americans.

Trump said some people should get US$1,000 (S$1,400).

Scrambling to get a grip on an unpredictable virus that has disrupted Americans in all walks of life, Trump predicted the economic challenge will be tough short term but that the economy will eventually rebound.

"We're going to win and I think we're going to win faster than people think, I hope," said Trump, surrounded by top advisers on the coronavirus crisis.

Vice-President Mike Pence said the government was urging construction companies to donate N95 face masks to local hospitals and not purchase any more to help doctors.

Pence said the Army Corps of Engineers can deploy field hospitals quickly to help handle the influx of virus patients.

Trump said he was looking at sites where they might be needed.

Trump on Monday urged Americans to work diligently for 15 days to try to slow the spread of the virus by avoiding crowds and staying home for the most part.

"We're asking our older generation to stay in their homes... We're asking the younger generation to stop going out," said Trump coronavirus adviser Deborah Birx.

The abrupt slowdown has staggered the US airline industry and other economic sectors and has left an increasing number of Americans unemployed.

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With markets gyrating and mostly on a downward trend, Mnuchin said the US stock markets should remain open to assure Americans that they can access their money.

"Everybody wants to keep it open. We may get to a point where we shorten the hours, if that's something they need to do, but Americans should know that we are going to do everything that they have access to their money at their banks, to the money in their 401(k)s, and to the money in stocks," Mnuchin said.

Trump urged Americans not to travel and said he had not ruled out travel restrictions to parts of the country.

He said Americans just "enjoy their living room".

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