Trump proposes economic relief measures to mitigate coronavirus fallout, says virus 'blindsided' the world

US President Donald Trump arrives at a news conference with members of the White House coronavirus task force, on March 9, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump on Monday (March 9) said his administration would be meeting with lawmakers to discuss economic relief measures to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak spreading through the United States.

He said that he would unveil "dramatic" measures to soften the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.

"I will be here tomorrow afternoon to let you know about some of the economic steps we're taking, which will be major," he told reporters.

He also praised his administration's efforts at dealing with the novel coronavirus but said that the disease had "blindsided the world".

The US "has a great economy, but this blindsided the world and I think we've handled it very well", he told reporters.

"We're going to be meeting with House Republicans, (Senate leader) Mitch McConnell, everybody, and discussing a possible payroll tax cut, or substantial relief," he said.

"We're also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help, so that they can be in a position where they're not going to ever miss a paycheck," he said, adding he would also be discussing relief measures for companies affected.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday "the US has the most resilient economy in the world," offsetting some of the financial impact of the coronavirus.

"We couldn't be more pleased that the president's economic programs of tax cuts, regulatory relief and trade have put the economy in a very good position," he said.

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US President Donald Trump said on Monday the White House will discuss with Congress on Tuesday possibly cutting payroll taxes to support the economy as it deals with the coronavirus outbreak.

The run on stock market prices robbed Mr Trump of one of his main talking points when touting his successes ahead of the November presidential election.

The Dow Jones closed 7.8 per cent lower in the worst session since 2008. And with pictures of a virus-hit cruise ship constantly on live television, Mr Trump's tweet Monday that "life & the economy go on" seemed increasingly out of touch.

Alarm mounted further after at least two Republican lawmakers who recently met with the president announced they were going into self-quarantine, fearing that they were exposed to the virus at a conservative conference just outside Washington.

One of them, Representative Matt Gaetz, was travelling with Mr Trump on Air Force One on Monday. Another, Representative Doug Collins, was with Trump on Friday during a
coronavirus briefing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters.

The spreading virus raises also questions over whether Mr Trump will be able to continue holding the large rallies at the heart of his reelection campaign.

Asked if Mr Trump had been tested for the virus, Vice-President Mike Pence said "I honestly don't know".

Stories of new cases flooded in across the country - from a Washington DC church rector to the head of New York's ports authority, while some stores ran out of hand sanitiser and masks. Twenty six people have now died in the United States after contracting Covid-19.

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