Odishatv Bureau

Washington: With an aim to help them fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the United States announced USD 174 million financial assistance to 64 countries including USD 2.9 million to India on Friday. This is in addition to the USD 100 million aid announced by the US in February.

The newly announced assistance is part of a larger American global response package across multiple departments and agencies, including the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The funding is for 64 of the most at-risk countries facing the threat of the global pandemic.

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The US State Department said it is providing USD 2.9 million to help the Indian government prepare laboratory systems, activate case finding and event-based surveillance, and support technical experts for response and preparedness, and more.

"This builds upon the foundation of more than USD 1.4 billion in health assistance out of the more than USD 2.8 billion in US assistance for India over the last 20 years," the State Department said.

According to United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, the new assistance builds on the US' record of global health leadership.

"For decades, the United States has been the world's largest provider of bilateral assistance in public health. The US has saved lives, protected people who are most vulnerable to disease, built health institutions, and promoted the stability of communities and nations," he told reporters.

In South Asia, the State Department is providing USD 1 million in health funding to help it strengthen monitoring and better prepare communities to identify potential outbreaks.

To bolster its national COVID-19 action plan, the United States has also redirected more than USD 1 million in existing funding for training of healthcare providers and other urgent needs.

It is providing USD 1.3 million to Sri Lanka, USD 1.8 million to Nepal, USD 3.4 million to Bangladesh and USD 5 million to Afghanistan to help them fight the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump has signed the largest economic stimulus package in history worth about $2 trillion to rescue the nation from the clutches of the coronavirus pandemic after Congress in a rare show of unity passed it.

The relief package was enacted on Friday as the US recorded 103,942 coronavirus cases during a week in which 3.3 million people officially registered as unemployed.

A total of 1,693 people have died in the US due to the disease.

The highlight of the package, which amounts to almost 10 per cent of the US GDP, is an outright payment of $1,200 each to almost all adults in the country and $500 each to most children to help them tide over the crisis.

Trump also informed that the United States of America is also ready to supply a large number of ventilators needed by its friends and allies in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Having ramped up the production of ventilators and other medical equipment required inside the US to treat the large number of people infected with the novel coronavirus, Trump said his administration will be distributing those throughout the world to other countries.

Trump said when he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has been tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the first thing that the PM asked him for help was ventilators.

"Boris Johnson was asking for ventilators today. Unfortunately, he tested positive. And that's a terrible thing, but he's going to be great. I'm sure he's going to be totally great. But they want ventilators. Italy wants ventilators, Spain wants ventilators, Germany wants ventilators," he said.

"They're all calling for ventilators. Well, we're going to make a lot of ventilators and we'll take care of our needs, but we're also going to help other countries," said the President as he announced that in the next 100 days, the US will be making more than 100,000 ventilators.

Responding to a question, Trump said there is a very good chance that the US might not need that many.

"I think frankly there is a great chance that we are not going to need that many. There are a lot of other people who are going to need them and we have countries all over the world that are friends of ours and we will help them," he said.

"We are in a position to do things that other countries can't so we have sort of an interesting position. We can make them because we are going to be making over 100,000 pretty quickly so we can make them and if we donate them, that's okay because we can help Italy and UK, especially Boris Johnson. I mean when I say how are you feeling and the first thing Boris said to me is we need ventilators," Trump said.

On Friday, he also invoked part of the Defense Production Act, requiring certain companies to produce ventilators.

"We need industrial mobilization to make adequate ventilators, particularly in the very short run to help the people in New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, Denver, Seattle all around this country as this virus bears down and the ventilators really the most important thing for patients who become most seriously ill. They are literally the lifeline for people," said the President's advisor Peter Navarro.

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The White House has been working with 10 different companies to manufacture ventilators. The federal government currently has 10,000 ventilators in stockpile and is ready to use them rationally across the country.

Meanwhile a Congressional delegation from the Washington State called the Trump administration to expedite the request for 1,000 additional ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).