United States 'still has way to go' to meet demand for coronavirus test kits

  • Video report by ITV News Washington Correspondent Robert Moore

The United States government has admitted it "still has a way to go" to meet the demand for coronavirus tests in the country.

The US has confirmed at least 150 cases of Covid-19, with the virus having claimed at least 12 lives across the country.

Vice-president Mike Pence said: "While we're meeting the demand of cases we know about today, we still have a ways to go to ensure the tests are available for any future cases [...] and across the country."

The admission comes as President Trump is expected to sign an 8.3 billion dollar funding measure to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

The White House will hope the funding boost - which passed though the Senate with almost universal support - will boost confidence and calm anxieties among Americans.

The virus has infected more than 90,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,100 - but the US has trailed other countries in rolling out tests, because of problems with its testing kits.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know

A man blocks the view as a person is taken by a stretcher to a waiting ambulance. Credit: AP

In January, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) said it had developed a test kit and sent it to state and big city public health labs in order to test more people.

Most of the kits, however, proved to be faulty - providing inconclusive results to test samples that should have tested positive.

On Thursday vice-president Mike Pence tried to reassure the American public at an address in Camp Murray, Washington - one of the worst hit states.

An ambulance worker wears protective equipment as she wheels a stretcher into a nursing facility where more than 50 people are sick. Credit: AP

He said: "The truth is that the risk of contracting the coronavirus to the average American remains low".

The comments came after an address earlier in the day when Mr Pence asked to help by refraining from buying masks unless they are sick.

During a tour of a surgical mask making factory in Minnesota, the vice-president said: "Unless you are ill, you have no need to buy a mask and one of the ways that that healthy Americans can support our efforts to be there for patients and to be there for health care providers is to not purchase masks on the commercial market".

Elsewhere in the US another Princess Cruises vessel has been quarantined - this time off the coast of California - while tests are carried out for suspected cases of the coronavirus.

Air crews lowered test kits from a helicopter onto the Grand Princess by rope as the vessel lay at anchor off Northern California.

The cruise company confirmed that 142 UK nationals – made up of 121 passengers and 21 crew – were on board the ship, which was carrying a total of 3,533 people.

Twenty-one people on board have tested positive for the coronavirus including 19 crew members, Vice President Mike Pence has said.

Another vessel in the company's fleet, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined off the coast of Yokohoma in Japan after an outbreak of the virus on board.

  • Test kits are dropped by helicopter to a quarantined cruise ship off the coast of California:

Washington has seen a high number of cases, with residents at a nursing home in the state being tested for the virus after more than 50 people became sick.

Health officials have reported at least two cases of Covid-19 conntected to the Life Care Center in Kirkland.

One case is a staff member - a woman in her 40s - at the home, while another is a resident in her 70s who has been hospitalised in a serious condition.

The Life Care Center nursing facility in Kirkland has reported 50 residents are feeling ill. Credit: AP

Researchers believe the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in the Seattle region.

Vice-president Pence said the CDC had "prioritised" Washington state in the delivery of virus test kits.

Mr Pence said "roughly 1.2 millions Americans" would be able to be tested for the coronavirus once kits are distributed "by the end of next week".

Travellers wear masks as they ride a train at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Credit: AP

The new legislation expected to be signed by President Trump would provide federal public health agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments.

The measures include a $300 million boost to deliver drugs to those who need it.

More than $2 billion to help federal, state and local governments prepare for and respond to the coronavirus threat - and an additional $1.3 billion to help fight the virus overseas.

There's also funding to subsidise $7 billion in small business loans.

Empty shelves for disinfectant wipes wait for restocking, as concerns grow around COVID-19 in New York. Credit: AP

In densely populated New York City a health care worker, who had returned from Iran, was in quarantine at home, according to governor Andrew Cuomo.

He said the city is ramping up preparations and cautioned against panic.