Trump, sinking in polls, shifts tone on coronavirus
In this file photo taken on July 11, 2020 US President Donald Trump wears a mask as he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. US President Donald Trump, who for months refused to encourage mask wearing as a way to combat the coronavirus, on July 20, 2020 tweeted a picture of himself with his face covered and touted his patriotism.
AFP/Alex Edelman
Trump, sinking in polls, shifts tone on coronavirus
Sebastian Smith (Agence France-Presse) - July 22, 2020 - 8:02am

WASHINGTON, United States — Reeling from polls predicting defeat in November's election, President Donald Trump struck a newly serious tone on the coronavirus crisis Tuesday, acknowledging that a disease he has frequently played down would "get worse."

"Some areas of our country are doing very well," Trump said at his first formal White House briefing on the pandemic in almost three months.

"Others are doing less well," the president said. "It will probably, unfortunately get worse before it gets better."

The return to presidential coronavirus briefings -- abandoned in late April after Trump drew ridicule for musing on the potential for injecting coronavirus patients with household disinfectant -- was part of a concerted bid to take back control of the message.

After an erratic national response, some 140,000 deaths, and now dramatic surges in new cases across the south and south-west, polls show two thirds of Americans mistrusting Trump's leadership on the issue.

Polls also show his response to the pandemic driving voters strongly in the direction of opponent Joe Biden in the presidential election, due in just over 100 days.

While Trump makes his latest pivot, Congress is starting to negotiate another large-scale economic relief bill to try and prop up an economy devastated by mass unemployment and shuttered businesses.

An agreement appears some way off, but in Europe, EU leaders emerged from a marathon four-day and four-night summit on Tuesday to celebrate what they boasted was their own historic rescue plan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel the 750-billion-euro ($858-billion) deal was equal to "the greatest crisis" in EU history. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez hailed "a Marshall Plan for Europe" that would boost his country's economy by 140 billion euros over the next six years.

No Dr Fauci

Having long played down the seriousness of the disease and repeatedly promoted pet medical theories on how it might be combatted, Trump hopes that his more somber, realistic approach will change the dire headlines.

Despite refusing for months to be photographed wearing a mask, he now urged Americans to follow doctors' recommendations in using face coverings as a vital barrier to the virus' spread.

"We are asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask," he said.

And he touted good news on vaccine development which he said would be completed "a lot sooner than anyone thought possible."

But Trump repeated his frequent assertion that the virus will somehow "disappear."

He also raised eyebrows by coming to the podium alone, rather than with medical leaders. His top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, who has been attacked by Trump's team for his often less than upbeat prognosis, was not even invited.

Primetime

Trump, a lifetime salesman and a veteran of reality television, often appears more comfortable in front of the cameras than in the more formal settings of traditional presidential life. Although he constantly complains about unfair press coverage, he gives more press conferences and jousts with journalists more often than probably any other Oval Office occupant.

He said he will continue the early evening primetime television briefings, although possibly not every day.

Tuesday's version was succinct at less than half an hour and he mostly kept to the White House talking points. But it is unknown whether Trump will resist using the platform in the future to return to his more usual divisive rhetoric.

He trails Biden in all polls and is retooling his campaign to an ever-darker message in which he tries to paint the Democrat as backed by anarchists and Venezuelan-style socialists.

Trump's Twitter feed Tuesday gave an indication of his divided attention.

On one hand there was the upbeat tweet: "Tremendous progress being made on Vaccines and Therapeutics!!!"

And on the other, the evidence-free, alarming claim -- shocking for a sitting president -- that the election in which he is forecast to lose will be rigged.

"Mail-In Voting, unless changed by the courts, will lead to the most CORRUPT ELECTION in our Nation's History! #RIGGEDELECTION."

2020 US PRESIDENTIAL RACE DONALD TRUMP NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 20, 2020 - 3:04pm

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

October 20, 2020 - 3:04pm

A number of European countries took urgent new measures on Monday to combat a second wave of coronavirus infections, as the World Health Organization blamed the surge in worldwide cases — now more than 40 million — on countries' failure to quarantine infected people properly.

Ireland and Wales became the first countries on the continent to re-enter lockdown as the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Europe passed 250,000, according to an AFP tally.

Irish prime minister Micheal Martin issued a nationwide "stay at home" order from midnight Wednesday, with all non-essential retail businesses to close and bars and restaurants limited to takeaway service only, although schools will remain open. — AFP

October 20, 2020 - 7:29am

Canada, in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19 illnesses, topped 200,000 cases and inched closer to 10,000 deaths Monday, according to official data compiled by Canadian broadcasters CBC and CTV.

About 80% of these cases and more than 90% of the deaths were recorded in the country's two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, which has been the epicenter of the country's epidemic since it broke out in Canada last March.

As of Monday afternoon, Canada had 200,039 cases and 9,772 dead — with its two westernmost provinces still to report their updated tallies — according to the public health data.

That amounts to 532 cases per 100,000 people in the country of 38 million, or five times fewer than in the United States. — AFP

October 19, 2020 - 10:37pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,114,836 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 GMT Monday.

At least 40,064,580 cases of coronavirus have been registered, of whom at least 27,549,400 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases. — AFP

October 19, 2020 - 8:30pm

South Africa's Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he has tested positive for COVID-19 just two days after the country's diagnosed cases topped 700,000.

The 64-year-old minister is the fifth member of the government to contract the virus after his colleagues in the ministries of defence, labour, trade and mineral resources.

"I wish to inform the public that this afternoon my wife, Dr May Mkhize, and I have tested positive for COVID-19," said Mkhize is a statement late Sunday. — AFP

October 19, 2020 - 3:44pm

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed 40 million on Monday, according to an AFP tally at 0715 GMT based on official sources.

A total of 40,000,234 infections and 1,113,896 deaths have been recorded across the globe. More than half the global caseload has come in the three hardest-hit countries: the United States with 8,154,935 infections, India with 7,550,273 and Brazil 5,235,344.

In just the last seven days more than that 2.5 million cases have been reported, the highest weekly number since COVID-19 emerged in China late last year.

The increase can only partly be explained by a sharp increase in testing and still likely does not include a large number of less severe or asymptomatic cases. — AFP

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