US moves nearer to shut down amid COVID-19 fears

Updated: Mar 17, 2020, 11:47 IST | Agencies | Chicago

Governors, mayors close restaurants, bars, and schools as nation sinks deeper into chaos

Customers line up to enter a store in Novato, California. PIC/AFP
Customers line up to enter a store in Novato, California. PIC/AFP

Officials across the US curtailed many elements of American life to fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, with health officials recommending that groups of 50 or more don't get together and a government expert saying a 14-day national shutdown may be needed. Governors and mayors were closing restaurants, bars, and schools as the nation sank deeper into chaos over the crisis.

Travellers returning home from overseas trips were stuck in line for hours at major airports for screenings, causing them to be crammed into just the kind of crowded spaces that public health officials have been urging people to avoid. In a sign of the impending economic gloom on the horizon, the Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate to near zero. President Donald Trump sought to calm a jittery nation by declaring that the government has 'tremendous control' over the situation and urging people to stop the panic buying of grocery staples that has depleted the shelves of stores around the country.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

Meanwhile, Trump has advised his countrymen against hoarding of essential items as reports of grocery stores being swept by panic buying due to the Coronavirus crisis emerged, saying supply chains in the country are the most powerful in the world and there is no shortage of daily goods. The US mainstream media, including newspapers and channels, on Sunday, showed pictures and visuals of empty shelves in grocery stores in the country.

In view of the situation, Trump on Sunday held a meeting with top leaders of the companies that own grocery stores, including Indian-American Vivek Sankaran, who is president and CEO of Albertsons. "I would like to say that people shouldn't go out and buy. We're going to be great. We're going to be so good," Trump told reporters at a White House after a meeting with nearly a dozen grocery store owners.

"But you don't have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax. People are going in and they're buying more. I guess, during the conversation, Doug of Walmart said that they're buying more than they buy at Christmas. Relax. We're doing great. It all will pass," he said.

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