Dr Anthony Fauci's warning that easing coronavirus restrictions too early could have serious health consequences has been deemed "not acceptable" by Donald Trump. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...
We're opening our country. People want it open."
- Donald Trump
Donald Trump has dismissed a warning from America's top infectious diseases expert over the risks of moving too early to lift lockdown restrictions and reopen local economies and schools.
The president said a key part of the testimony given by Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to Congress this week was unacceptable.
During a televised Senate hearing, Fauci warned that lifting stay-at-home orders and allowing people to return to normal life too soon could result in more "suffering and death". He also cautioned against assuming that children are "completely immune" to the effects of coronavirus.
There have been nearly 1.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US and 84,000 deaths - more than any other country in the world.
Risking an uncontrollable outbreak
Speaking to senators on Tuesday, Fauci expressed his concern that states and regions eager to restart their economies could disregard guidance on when it's safe to ease constraints designed to slow the spread of the virus.
"If that occurs, there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control," he said.
The NIAID head added that, as well as leading to "suffering and death that could have been avoided", a second peak in the pandemic would hinder efforts to get the economy back on its feet.
On the issue of reopening schools, Fauci said it was important not to be "cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects" of Covid-19. He also raised doubts that a vaccine would be ready to give to students returning to schools, colleges and universities before the end of the year.
"We just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall, about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak," he said.
Fauci was met with resistance from some lawmakers, with Rand Paul, a Republican senator from Kentucky, telling him: "I don't think you're the 'end all'. I don't think you're the one person that gets to make the decision."
Paul argued there are "people on the other side saying there's not going to be a surge and we can safely open the economy".
When he was asked for his views on the warnings about reopening the economy too soon, Trump said Fauci "wants to play all sides of the equation".
He added: "I was surprised by his answer actually, because ... to me, it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools."
The president said "the only thing that would be acceptable" is giving older teachers and professors more time before they return to work, because "this is a disease that attacks age".
"We're opening our country. People want it open. The schools are going to be open," he insisted.
This is the latest sign of friction between the Republican leader and the country's leading infectious diseases expert. Trump previously retweeted a Twitter post calling for Fauci to be fired, but later said he hadn't considered dismissing him.
The inconsistency between the president's focus on reopening the economy and Fauci's warnings over moving too fast prompted a response from Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential election.
"I would trust the guy who's one of our nation's top public health experts, not the one who pondered injecting disinfectant into the body and looked directly at a solar eclipse," the former vice-president tweeted.
'Phenomenal' economic prospects?
Ahead of his election showdown with Biden in November, Trump has consistently struck a positive tone on the economy and its future prospects.
He told reporters that he expects the country to go through a "transitional" third quarter this year, followed by a "tremendous" fourth quarter and a "phenomenal" year in 2021, thanks to the pent-up demand that has accumulated during the lockdowns imposed by some states.
However, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell was less optimistic. He warned that, without additional financial relief from the federal government, the economic recovery is likely to be slow and difficult.
"There is a growing sense ... that the recovery will come more slowly than we would like, but it will come and that may mean that it is necessary for us to do more," Powell said in a video conference hosted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
His comments spooked the markets, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping by more than 2% on Wednesday and the S&P 500 seeing a 1.7% slide.
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