January 26, 2022

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Donald Trump prepares task force to lift coronavirus lockdown but health experts warn it is too soon

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Donald Trump says he will soon be announcing a second coronavirus task force, creating a council to focus on re-opening the country after the worst of the pandemic passes.

“We will be announcing that in a short while. Probably Tuesday,” Mr Trump told reporters during the daily coronavirus task force briefing.

The US president said he would be announcing the launch of what he dubbed the “Opening our Country” task force “as soon as possible”.

With the US economy reeling and job losses soaring, Mr Trump has been itching to reopen the country, drawing alarm from health experts who warn that doing so too quickly could spark a deadly resurgence that could undermine current distancing efforts.

Experts on Friday insisted that the US was not ready to lift social distancing measures.

A volunteer at a food bank in San Diego, California, gives out fruit – BING GUAN/REUTERS

Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert and other health officials pointed to declining rates of coronavirus hospitalisations and need for intensive care – particularly in hardest-hit New York – as signs that social distancing measures are paying off.

“Now is no time to back off,” Dr Fauci told CNN. “The virus kind of decides whether or not it’s appropriate to open it,” he said. “The one thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to get out there prematurely and then wind up backtracking.”

He cautioned that there will be a rise cases when the lockdown is lifted.

“When we decide, at a proper time, when we’re going to be relaxing some of the restrictions, there’s no doubt you’re going to see cases,” he said. “The question is how you respond to them.”

Read more: ‘Food banks are empty’: US staggers under job losses as country hit hard by coronavirus

Those measures continue to take an enormous toll on the economy. Some economists are forecasting job losses of up to 20 million in April – raising questions about how long business closures and travel restrictions can be sustained.

Mr Trump’s council charged with planning to lift the lockdown is expected to include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow, among others including state governors, a senior administration official said.

Republican economist Art Laffer, who has presented a plan to jumpstart the economy to White House officials and has been a mentor to Kudlow, is also thought to be under consideration. Mr Trump awarded Mr Laffer the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.

The president, who is seeking re-election in November, said on Friday that facts and recommendations from health experts will determine the next steps taken to re-open the economy.

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