United States President Donald Trump said there would be “suicides by the thousands” if businesses were not re-opened soon, despite warnings from the World Health Organization that the country could become the new epicentre of the novel coronavirus.
Speaking on the White House front lawn for a Fox News town hall, Trump spoke of scaling back social distancing and re-opening restaurants and businesses, insisting that the U.S. “wasn’t built to be shut down.”
“I don’t want the cure be worse than the problem itself,” Trump said.
Previously, Trump said he would “love” to re-open the economy by Easter, on April 12, adding the U.S. government would make its decision after a 15-day period.
The president’s comments go directly against the advice of the country’s medical professionals, who have pushed for social distancing and self-isolation to help flatten the curve of the pandemic.
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By Tuesday, the World Health Organization had announced over 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., increasing the country’s death toll to 471.
Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the organization, told reporters Tuesday they saw a “very large acceleration” of confirmed cases across the country in recent days. She said 40 per cent of new cases found within the last 24 hours came from the U.S.
By contrast, Canada’s chief public health officer Theresa Tam said Tuesday that Canada had confirmed 2,170 cases of the new coronavirus and recorded 25 deaths — raising questions about how the Canada-U.S. border would be affected should Trump ease restrictions to jump-start the economy.
Currently, the Canadian government has moved to limit all non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border for tourism and recreational purposes in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
Truck drivers carrying food, fuel and life-saving medicines between Canada and the U.S., as well as those who need to travel for essential work, were exempted from the temporary closure.
When it came to protecting Canadians from COVID-19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday “nothing is off the table.”
“We recognize the deeply integrated supply chains that go back and forth across the United States,” said Trudeau. “We’ll continue to ensure that essential supplies of medication, of industrial equipment, of food continue to flow at the same time.
“Our priority is keeping Canadians alive and healthy, and that is what we will continue to focus on in Canada.”