Coronavirus: Donald Trump declares national emergency in US

US President Donald Trump has declared a 'national emergency' as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.

Trump made the declaration at the White House Rose Garden on Saturday morning (NZ time), saying it would free up $50 billion in funds to fight the disease, which has killed at least 5000 people worldwide.

Just two weeks ago he was calling criticism of his handling of the outbreak a "hoax" designed to end his presidency

The World Health Organization has declared Europe the epicentre of the outbreak now, but there are concerns the US has vastly underreported the number of cases, with limited testing availability. 

Trump said "old and obsolete rules" were being broken down to "unleash the full power of the federal government" by declaring a "national emergency - two very big words".

Trump said within a month around 5 million tests will be available, but he doesn't want "everyone running out" to get tested - only if they have certain symptoms.

"I doubt we'll need anywhere near that," he said. "We don't want everybody taking this test." 

While there have been 1268 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, anecdotal reports suggest the true number is much higher, with people reporting a lack of testing available and being put off by the high cost at present.

"We still have a long way to go," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking after Trump.

"There will be many more cases. But we'll take care of that and ultimately, as the President said, this will end... But what's going on here today is going to help it to end sooner than it would have."

Trump shook hands with several of those present, despite health warnings. One person offered an elbow bump instead.

As of Saturday morning, more than 137,000 people were confirmed infected and more than 5000 dead.

Trump insists he's not one of them, despite coming into contact with Brazilian officials who have since tested positive.

"No. We have no symptoms whatsoever," he said.