U.S. President Donald Trump made his first major foray out of the White House since the coronavirus lockdown began in a push for economic reopening as the daily death toll from the disease spiked.
"We can't keep our country closed for the next five years," Trump said on a trip to a mask-making factory in Arizona, conceding that some people would be "badly affected."
And in the latest sign his administration no longer considers the pandemic its top daily priority, the White House is set to disband the emergency task force handling the outbreak. "I think we're starting to look at the Memorial Day (May 25) window, early June window" for shutting it down, Vice President Mike Pence said.
Trump urged U.S. states to ease restrictions as he attempts to fire up the world's biggest economy before the November presidential election, when the high death toll and millions of lost jobs could cost him dearly.
The United States is the worst-hit country, with more than 70,000 deaths, ahead of Britain where fatalities topped 32,000. New confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And, public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths – perhaps tens of thousands – as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.
A University of Washington research model often cited by White House officials on Monday nearly doubled its projected U.S. death toll to over 134,000 by Aug. 4. The revision reflected "rising mobility in most U.S. states" with an easing of business closures and stay-at-home orders expected in 31 states by May 11, the institute said.
Elsewhere around the world, Britain’s official coronavirus death toll, at more than 29,000, topped that of Italy to become the highest in Europe and second-highest in the world behind the United States. The official number of dead worldwide surpassed a quarter-million, by Johns Hopkins' count, though the true toll is believed to be much higher.
With experts warning of a severe global recession, many governments have been easing stay-at-home measures to try to revive reeling economies. Germany is eyeing an almost complete return to normality this month, with plans to send all pupils back to school and restart top-flight football, according to a draft agreement seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP). Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of federal states have agreed that people from two households can go out to eat together, Bild newspaper reported Wednesday without citing its sources.
The Bundesliga would become the first of Europe's top five leagues to restart, a prospect Health Minister Jens Spahn said could make the competition an "export hit." With about 165,000 cases and 7,000 deaths, Germany has so far been able to prevent the scenes of dire overcrowding in its hospitals that have been seen elsewhere in Europe.