The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary said Thursday a million test kits for the COVID-19 are expected to arrive this weekend at U.S. labs.
Alex Azar said the coronavirus tests are shipping from a private manufacturer.
The Trump administration has received criticism about the short supply of test kits.
Vice President Mike Pence said in Washington state Thursday, “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward,” but added that “real progress” had been made “in the last several days.”
Pence met Thursday with Washington Governor Jay Inslee. Washington is the site of 11 of the 12 U.S. deaths from the virus. Most of the deaths in Washington took place in a nursing home near Seattle.
'Not a successful strategy'
National Nurses United said its members have not been given the resources, supplies, protection and training they need to do their jobs properly.
“It is not a successful strategy to leave nurses and other health care workers unprotected,” Executive Director Bonnie Castillo said. Castillo, who is a registered nurse, said when nurses are quarantined, “We are not only prevented from caring for COVID-19 patients, but we are taken away from caring for cancer patients, cardiac patients and premature babies.”
Four U.S. states — Maryland, California, Florida and Hawaii — have declared states of emergency because of the virus.
Maryland joined the roster Thursday after three Montgomery County residents, a husband and wife in their 70s and a woman in her 50s, were diagnosed with the coronavirus. All three were reported to have contracted the virus while on an overseas cruise. Montgomery County is a Maryland suburb next to Washington, D.C.
State of emergency in Palestine
In the Middle East, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency Thursday, shutting down schools for 30 days and closing the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem after seven coronavirus cases were confirmed in the city. These are the first cases in the Palestinian territories.
Closing the church in the town that worshipers say was Jesus’ birthplace will devastate Bethlehem’s vital tourism industry and comes just weeks before Easter.
The threat appears to be waning in China, where the outbreak erupted in December. The WHO said Thursday there are about 17 times as many new cases outside China now than inside China.
On Friday, however, China reported that the number of new cases had risen from 139 Thursday to 143.
South Korea travel
Hundreds of patients are being released from Chinese hospitals and shuttered factories are starting to reopen. But Chinese President Xi Jinping has called off a scheduled state visit to Japan, where Tokyo has declared that all visitors from China and South Korea will be placed under quarantine. South Korea has the largest number of coronavirus cases outside China.
Australia joined China and Iran in banning travel from South Korea.
Indonesia is also restricting travel from parts of South Korea as well as two other hard-hit nations: Iran and Italy. Both of those nations have shut down schools.
The United Nations said the virus has disrupted classes for nearly 300 million students worldwide from preschool through 12th grade. That number does not include colleges that have also been shuttered.
Funds to fight outbreak
In the United States, with more than 150 confirmed cases of the virus and 12 deaths, the Senate Thursday followed the House in approving $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the outbreak, including money for developing a vaccine. The measure now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Trump took some heat Thursday from health experts after he told Fox News that the World Health Organization is sending out false information, and he suggested infected patients are safe going to their jobs in offices and stores.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the coronavirus is highly transmissible and that people who are sick must stay home.
Global markets took another beating Thursday with investors nervous about the coronavirus outbreak and uncertain about exactly which way the situation is going.
Experts say the roller coaster ride in the markets is likely to continue as long COVID-19 spreads to more countries, with investors acting out of fear over where the next state of emergency, quarantine or business shutdown will be declared.
'Time to act'
At his daily virus briefing Thursday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus again stressed the seriousness of the virus about which scientists still know little.
“This is not a drill. This is not the time for giving up, this is not a time for excuses,” Tedros said. “Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades, Now is the time to act on those plans.”
As of late Thursday, there were more than 98,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide and at least 3,300 deaths.