President Donald Trump says some US states to reopen in coming days

US President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 18, 2020. / AFP / JIM WATSON

President Donald Trump says that some US states will begin lifting coronavirus restrictions in coming days while still observing the virus-related precautions.

Speaking at a daily briefing on Saturday, Trump said some businesses in Texas and Vermont will be allowed to reopen on Monday and restrictions will be lifted in Montana on Friday.

Texas and Vermont “will allow certain business to open on Monday while still requiring appropriate social distancing precautions,” he said.

Both Republican and Democratic governors “have announced concrete steps to begin a safe and gradual phased opening,” he added.

“We continue to see a number of positive signs that the virus has passed its peak,” Trump told reporters.

His remarks come as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday reported an increase of 29,002 cases from its previous count and a rise of 2,394 in the number of dead people.

The CDC reported its tally of cases as of 4 pm ET on April 17, compared with its count a day before.

So far, more than 690,000 people have been affected and 35,443 have died of the virus across the country.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people flocked to several beaches in Florida on Friday evening as they reopened for “essential activities,” despite the state’s death toll climbing to 726.
In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Saturday that the state had continued to make progress in its battle with a virus.

“If you look at the past three days, you could argue we are past the plateau and starting to descend,” Cuomo said. “So, we’re not at the plateau anymore, but we’re still not in a good position.”

Some state governors, however, have said they will not act prematurely to reopen their businesses until there is more testing for the virus.

Business leaders have also told the president that widespread testing was needed before their companies can return to normal operations.

On Saturday, Trump said “our testing is getting better and better,” but failed to offer any concrete evidence.

Protests held in some US cities

With encouragement from Trump, hundreds protested Saturday in cities across the country against coronavirus-related lockdowns which have had bad economic impacts.

Nearly 400 people held demonstrations in Concord, New Hampshire and while many were on foot others remained in their cars.

In Texas, over 250 people walked outside the State Capitol in Austin, demanding that the state be reopened.
"It's time to reopen Texas, it's time to let people work, it's time for them to let voluntary interaction and good sense rule the day, not government force," said Justin Greiss, an activist with Young Americans for Liberty.

In Maryland, demonstrators stayed in their cars outside the state's colonial-era statehouse in Annapolis and waved signs with messages like "Poverty kills too."

In Columbus, Ohio, hundreds of protesters rallied while chanting “We are not sheep”.

Trump warns China could face consequences for virus outbreak

Also on Saturday, Trump warned China that it should face consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the coronavirus pandemic.

“It could have been stopped in China before it started and it wasn’t, and the whole world is suffering because of it,” Trump told his White House briefing.

“If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible, yeah, I mean, then sure there should be consequences,” he added.

The US president and his senior aides have said China was not transparent about the virus which first emerged in its city of Wuhan late last year.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that the novel coronavirus was first made in a lab in Wuhan, an accusation that Beijing vehemently rejected.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said “multiple times there is no evidence the new coronavirus was created in a laboratory. Many well-known medical experts in the world also believe that claims of the so-called laboratory leaks have no scientific basis.,” Chinese Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

Trump also suspended aid to the World Health Organization, accusing it of being “China-centric.”

He claimed the agency had failed to disclose or respond to “credible” information in December that suggested the virus could be spread through human-to-human transmission.
He also accused the WHO of siding with China and reliance on Chinese data, blaming it for “all sorts of false information about transmission and mortality” that was circulated amid initial reports.