Donald Trump has taken the unusual step of allowing the Pentagon to call in reserve troops to help respond to the coronavirus, as the U.S. and Europe struggle to slow the spread of the epidemic.
The President has given Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, the power to call anyone in the reserve force and the National Guard who has medical capabilities.
The Pentagon said, “Decisions about who can be activated are still under review. Typically, these members will be individuals from headquarters units and individuals with much-needed medical capabilities, the calling of which would not harm their civilian communities. “
The move came soon after the United States overtook China with the highest number of reported cases of the disease and the death toll in America has reached more than 1300.
Experts said calling on reserve troops to help fight a medical emergency was a very unusual move for an American president.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, said: “Most of the mobilisations relate to natural disasters or, in some cases, riots and federal law enforcement or, after September 11, the threat of terrorism. It may be a first. “
The rapid spread of the disease in the United States prompted the President to take measures he had previously resisted, including triggering his wartime powers to force General Motors to manufacture the ventilators needed to treat patients with coronavirus.
Later Saturday, Trump will see the navy ship USNS Comfort, which is heading to New York to help the city fight the crisis.
Europe has also reported its highest 24-hour death rate so far on Saturday, with 832 people killed in Spain and 919 in Italy – the deadliest day in any country since beginning of the epidemic.
Tokyo reported 63 new cases on Saturday, a single-day record that raised concerns that the country, which has been one of the most effective at containing the virus, is on the verge of a second wave of infections. The global number of people with the disease now exceeds 600,000.