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Congress approves £1.78 trillion package as US infections soar past 92,000

The House of Representatives approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote.

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A patient, right, waits to be directed into a COVID-19 testing test by a medical worker outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A patient, right, waits to be directed into a COVID-19 testing test by a medical worker outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A patient, right, waits to be directed into a COVID-19 testing test by a medical worker outside Elmhurst Hospital Center, Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The US House of Representatives has rushed Donald Trump a 2.2 trillion dollar (£1.78 trillion) rescue package to help a US economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.

The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities from both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation’s history.

It will ship payments of up to 1,200 dollars (£970) to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small and send billions more to states, local governments and the nation’s all but overwhelmed health care system.

The president said he will sign the measure immediately.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Alex Brandon/AP)

It came as a surge in infections took the US total over 92,000 – the highest in the world – amid warnings that the pandemic is accelerating in cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit.

The worldwide total has topped 550,000, and the death toll has climbed to more than 25,000, while more than 127,000 have recovered.

“The American people deserve a government-wide, visionary, evidence-based response to address these threats to their lives and their livelihood. And they need it now,” said House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Passage of came after Democratic and Republican leaders banded together and outmanoeuvred maverick Republican Thomas Massie, who tried delaying the bill.

Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Massie is “a third rate Grandstander” and said he should be drummed out of the party. “He is a disaster for America, and for the Great State of Kentucky!”

Thomas Massie
Thomas Massie (House Television/AP)

Friday’s House session followed an extraordinary 96-0 Senate vote late on Wednesday.

The passing of the bill came after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the economy “may well be in recession” already, and the government reported a 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims, more than four times the previous record. The US death toll from the virus rose to 1,300.

It is unlikely to be the end of the federal response. Ms Pelosi said issues like more generous food stamp payments, aid to state and local governments and family leave may be revisited in subsequent legislation.

PA