US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in the press briefing room of the White House on March 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the United States, with New York's case count doubling every three days according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
AFP/Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Trump declares coronavirus fight close to end, but cases rise
Sebastian Smith (Agence France-Presse) - March 25, 2020 - 8:48am

WASHINGTON, United States — President Donald Trump declared the beginning of the end of the coronavirus crisis in the United States on Tuesday and called for a quick end to social distancing, even as New York's governor compared the growing pandemic to a "bullet train."

Trump, who is keen to get his reelection campaign back on track, said that social distancing has caused too much pain to the US economy, prompting Congress to debate a historic rescue package.

"Our country — it's not built to shut down," he said on Fox News. "You can destroy a country this way by closing it down."

"I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," said Trump, declaring he could see "light at the end of the tunnel."

The president said he looked forward to "packed" churches on Easter, which is on April 12 — less than three weeks away.

Social distancing and quarantine measures have been instituted across much of the United States, with stay-at-home orders for more than a third of the population, bringing the world's biggest economy to an abrupt halt.

An Ipsos/Axios poll released Tuesday found that 74 percent of Americans have stopped attending large gatherings, while 48 percent have canceled travel plans, leaving airports deserted.

Another significant casualty of the shutdown has been the presidential campaign, with Trump having to halt a relentless series of big rallies around the country.

Health experts have advised the measures as the foundation for preventing the easily transmitted, potentially fatal illness from multiplying uncontrollably.

The administration on March 16 declared "15 Days to Slow the Spread," a period which expires early next week.

But Trump made clear Tuesday that he thinks the response to coronavirus deaths has been blown out of proportion, saying "we lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn't call up the automobile companies to say, 'Stop making cars.'"

Later, Trump appeared to retreat from his Easter goal at a press conference alongside the renowned government infectious diseases specialist Anthony Fauci.

"We'll only do it if it's good," Trump said, adding that the reopening could be limited to a "portion" of the nation. He mentioned areas like farm country, Texas and the west, often sparsely populated.

His own press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, quarantined since coming into contact with Brazilian officials almost two weeks ago, has tested negative, the White House said Tuesday.

$2 trillion

The plunge in activity and warnings of recession or even depression are a brutal reversal for what was until a few weeks ago a humming economy, with record low unemployment.

Congressional leaders said Tuesday they were getting closer all the time to delivering a major boost by passing a nearly $2 trillion rescue package for businesses, ordinary Americans and hospitals reeling from the shutdown.

Republicans and Democrats have been wrangling over the bill for several days but news that they were nearing a deal sent battered stock prices on Wall Street soaring.

This would be the biggest emergency injection of money into the economy in history, dwarfing even the bailouts of 2008, when a worldwide financial crisis sent the US economy into a tailspin.

'We are not slowing it'

More than 700 people have died from the new coronavirus in the United States, while the number of confirmed cases is near 54,000, a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University showed Tuesday.

The US has the third-highest number of confirmed cases globally, behind China and Italy.

And despite Trump's relentless optimism, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned of "astronomical numbers" in the state and the nation's biggest city.

"We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own," he said, comparing the spread of the disease to "a bullet train."

Politics vs health?

With his reelection campaign temporarily knocked off track, Trump is now seeking to turn the coronavirus calamity into a dramatic comeback story that will deliver him a second term in November.

One of his main claims to a second term, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, was the strong economy.

"We can't lose a Boeing, we can't lose some of these companies," he said on the Fox News broadcast from the White House. "If we lose those companies we're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs, millions of jobs."

However, his push for a quick reopening of the economy carries the risk that some will see it as putting wealth over the survival of the sick, especially the vulnerable elderly.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said as much, urging those over 70 "not to sacrifice the country."

Cuomo, whose daily news conferences have made him a major national voice during the crisis, shot back at those calling for rapid economic reopening, saying "my mother is not expendable." — with Peter Hutchison in New York

DONALD TRUMP NOVEL CORONAVIRUS UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 4, 2020 - 4:09pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

April 4, 2020 - 4:09pm

The Department of Health reports 76 more local cases of the coronavirus disease 2019, bringing the official tally to 3,094 from the previous count of 3,018.

April 3, 2020 - 12:58pm

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. assures the public that they will shoulder the full cost of treatment for all COVID-19 patients until April 14, 2020.

"The reason for this accommodation window is due to the novelty and the wide range of severity of the disease in the country for which no existing case rate or package based on accepted protocols has yet been established," it says in a statement.

Philhealth says they will issue a new set of guidelines after the final protocol is established.

April 3, 2020 - 10:22am

The UN General Assembly has approved a resolution calling for "international cooperation" and "multilateralism" in the fight against COVID-19, in the first text to come out of the international body since the pandemic's outbreak.

The resolution, which was approved by consensus, also stresses "the need for full respect for human rights" and that "there is no place for any form of discrimination, racism and xenophobia in the response to the pandemic." — AFP

April 3, 2020 - 8:04am

The cruise ship Zaandam, which has dozens of ill passengers on board and was not allowed to dock in several South American countries, arrivsd Thursday in port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The liner was finally cleared for docking after long negotiations between Holland America Line, local and state officials, and the US Coast Guard, to ensure the safe disembarkation of the healthy — and the sick. — AFP

April 2, 2020 - 5:02pm

The Department of Health confirms 11 COVID-19 patients have died in the Philippines, raising the total number of fatalities to 107.

The Philippines also recorded 322 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national total to 2,633.

As of Thursday afternoon, one additional patient recovered from the deadly virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to 51.

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