Trump urges end to lockdowns as US COVID-19 deaths near 100,000

Trump, paying increasingly closer attention to his re-election chances, and his backers say the worst is behind the US.

    US President Donald Trump speaking during a ceremony commemorating the Memorial Day holiday at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]
    US President Donald Trump speaking during a ceremony commemorating the Memorial Day holiday at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

    Even as the United States approached the grim milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, President Donald Trump is continuing to pressurise state governors to reopen their economies and allow the "transition to greatness" he has adopted as a new campaign slogan to proceed full speed ahead.

    Taking to Twitter on Tuesday, Trump bragged about early gains in the US stock market indices and insisted that, "There will be ups and downs, but next year will be one of the best ever!"

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    Trump's upbeat assessment of the situation facing the US comes after a long Memorial Day holiday weekend that saw Americans in several spots casting aside their fears of the coronavirus and marking the traditional beginning of summer as they would any other year - by packing onto beaches, gathering in back yard barbecues and cramming into crowded swimming pools.

    Officials in all 50 states have already relaxed earlier restrictions to some extent. Even in California, with some of the most stringent coronavirus containment rules in the country, public health officials announced on Monday that retail with in-store shopping and places of worship may now open.

    In New York City, the iconic trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opened for the first time in two months on Tuesday, but with new restrictions. The NYSE says fewer traders will be on the floor at a given time in order to support six feet physical distancing requirements, and those who are on the floor will be required to wear masks.

    Data from Johns Hopkins University show that the US remains the country with the most coronavirus cases, with more than 1.6 million COVID-19 cases and 98,228 deaths as of Tuesday morning. The number of new cases is declining in 10 US states and remains steady in 22, according to the data, but continues to increase in 18 others - including Georgia, Arkansas, California and Alabama.

    Global health officials warned on Tuesday that the world is still in the very middle of the outbreak, dampening hopes for a speedy global economic rebound and renewed international travel.

    "Right now, we're not in the second wave. We're right in the middle of the first wave globally," said Dr Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization's executive director.

    "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," Ryan said, pointing to South America, South Asia and other parts of the world.

    But Trump, paying increasingly closer attention towards his chances of being re-elected in November, and his surrogates continue to insist that the worst is behind the US and that fears of the virus have been overblown. Speaking in his first televised interview since leaving the White House, former Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the nation has overreacted to the pandemic "a little bit".

    In an interview to CNBC on Monday, Mulvaney referenced the 2017-18 flu season in the US that led to the death of roughly 80,000 people.

    "Not to say that COVID is the ordinary flu, that's not my point," Mulvaney said. "But my point is that almost 100,000 people died two years ago from flu and the country didn't shut down. It's time to sort of deal with this in the proper perspective, and that's to allow us to get back to work safely."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies