White House denies report it is mulling appointing a coronavirus 'czar'

An employee of Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy wears a mask at work in Chinatown, New York City

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday denied a report that it was considering appointing a coronavirus "czar" to coordinate the U.S. response to the disease.

Politico reported on Wednesday that U.S. officials were debating the necessity of such a role, but White House spokesman Judd Deere wrote in a post on Twitter that this was not true.

President Donald Trump "is pleased with the leadership of @SecAzar to protect the public health," Deere wrote, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is leading a coronavirus task force.

Trump is due to hold a news conference on the government's coronavirus response at 6 p.m. (2300 GMT). He has sought to downplay fears about the spread of the disease.

Global stock markets have slumped for the past five days amid worries over a prolonged disruption to supply chains from the disease, which has infected about 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000, mostly in China.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Bernadette Baum)