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Thursday 2 April 2020

‘Economy No. 1 can’t shut down,’ says Trump, defying doctors

Businesses power the US economy — world's No. 1 — and President Trump won't let them weather this alone, the White House quoted him as saying

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US President Donald Trump has indicated that he will not fully follow the suggestion of his medical advisers (doctors) to deal with the epidemic of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). He said that such a step would have a tremendous impact on the country’s economy.

“We’re opening up this incredible country. Because we have to do that. I would love to have it open by Easter,” Trump said, adding, “I would love to have that. It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up, and rarin’ to go by Easter.”

President Trump was speaking at a press conference at the White House on Monday. “We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off,” Trump said.

“Obviously Trump is not rooted in reality,” said Dr Tina Tan, a board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a staff member at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “This is the making of a major public health disaster. I am not sure where he is getting his information from, but it is extremely flawed,” Tan said.

But the economy-driven US president wouldn’t have any of that. “Don’t forget, the doctors, if it were up to them, they’d be saying let’s keep it shutdown. Let’s shut down the entire world because again you’re up to almost 150 countries. So let’s shut down the entire world,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Monday.

‘Can’t close world’s No. 1 economy’

“And when we shut it down, that would be wonderful, and let’s keep it shut for a couple of years. You know we can’t do that. You can’t do that with a country, especially the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world by far. You can’t do that,” Trump said when asked about easing the safety guidelines regarding coronavirus.

In the US, COVID-19 has so far claimed 550 lives and infected 43,700 people. New York is the worst-affected state with 157 deaths.

On top of these figures, Trump’s stand, which may be valid otherwise in terms of the economy, worries his medical advisers. The US administration’s scientific point man in the crisis Dr Anthony Fauci strongly advocates restrictions on people-to-people contact, saying it’s better to overreact now than to be sorry later.

Earlier, Trump had said that his administration would not allow the economy to close for COVID-19 as it would be a worse problem in itself. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!” he tweeted. Trump defended his tweet at the press conference.

Assessment after first moratorium of 2 weeks ends

The 15-day period of the government’s initial guidelines ends next week, after which Trump is planning to take some more precautionary steps. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go!” he tweeted. Trump defended his tweet during the press meet.

“I’m not saying it ends at that time. You know, we have another seven days or so. I’m not saying it ends at that time. But I am saying it’s been like this incredible learning process. That’s going to go into the future. That’s going to go even as we open up our country,” the president said, referring to hard-hit states, New York, California, Washington and Illinois.

“Now, we may quarantine. I mean, we will be quarantining many people in these areas. There are other areas that just aren’t affected or they are affected very little. And why would we close down 100% of the country?” he asked.

Small businesses power our economy — and President Trump won’t let them weather this alone, the White House tweeted him as saying.

Meanwhile, religious heads in the US, unlike some of their counterparts in India like Muslim clerics, are cautious. “Our current plan is to have Masses and other Holy Week liturgies celebrated privately by the priests, with no congregation present,” a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York told CNBC.

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