The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 5,700 lives in some 137 countries.
Repeatedly attacked for sending out mixed signals on the health crisis, the US president, Donald Trump raised eyebrows on Friday when, contrary to medical advice, he was seen shaking hands as he gathered his coronavirus response team at the White House.
On Saturday, he blamed habit — “people put their hand out… you don’t think about it” — but said it would have to change.
“Maybe people shouldn’t be shaking hands for the long term,” said Trump, a self-declared germophobe, “because it does transmit flu and other things.”
Trump’s virus test came after not only contact with the Brazilian delegation, but also US lawmakers and political leaders who have gone into self-quarantine over potential infection.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was on Saturday awaiting results of a virus test after she came down with flu-like symptoms. She reportedly attended an event in Florida with Trump on Monday and flew back to Washington on Air Force One.
A broader travel ban
On Saturday a 30-day US ban took effect on all travel from the EU’s Schengen border-free zone, part of a global clampdown on travel to curtail the virus.
Pence said the ban — which notably excluded Britain and Ireland — would include both countries as of midnight EST on Monday (0400 GMT on Tuesday).
“Americans in the UK or Ireland can come home. Legal (US) residents can come home,” Pence said.
Trump also aimed a new jab at the US Federal Reserve, saying he wanted it to be “much more proactive” in moving to protect Americans from the widespread economic dislocation caused by the pandemic.
But the president — wearing a navy blue USA cap — seemed otherwise subdued during Saturday’s briefing, uncharacteristically offering praise to Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi said she was “proud” to have reached an agreement on the relief package after days of tense talks with the White House.
Trump also tweeted that he had a “nice conversation” with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau and that it was “great to hear that his wonderful wife Sophie is doing very well.”
Trudeau has been telegoverning since his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday.