Even as New York and New Jersey posted their worst daily death toll from Covid-19, President Donald Trump was casting blame elsewhere for the response to the pandemic and developing plans to get the economy back in action.
The White House’s economic strategy, which is in its early stages, depends on virus testing far more Americans than has yet been possible, in an effort to better identify and contain areas of infection, Mario Parker reports.
The economic restart would likely begin in smaller municipalities that haven’t been heavily hit. Hot spots like Detroit, New Orleans and New York City, where there are at least encouraging signs on new infection rates, would remain shuttered.
“We’re looking at the concept where we open sections of the country, and we’re also looking at the concept where you open up everything,” Trump told Fox News.
The president, who’s faced criticism for downplaying the virus threat, warned yesterday he’s considering putting a “hold” on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization, which he said “blew it” by failing to sound the alarm sooner.
With partisan tensions growing over the makeup of a further round of stimulus, Trump is also drawing fire from Democratic lawmakers for his ouster of the official set to oversee $2 trillion in already-passed aid. While Trump didn’t directly explain the decision, he’s acted against other inspectors general he considers insufficiently loyal.
Trump only last month suggested Easter Sunday as the time to re-open the country. His target for a return to normalcy may still be running on an unrealistic time frame.
Facing the peak | While Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care, deliveries of U.K.-made hospital ventilators are weeks away, even as the country faces the prospect of a peak in infections in a matter of days. The National Health Service is relying on imports and loans from the armed forces and the private sector.
Read here about Johnson’s unexpected stand-in, Dominic Raab. And click here for how the outbreak is squeezing the finances of ferry companies that bring the bulk of trucks and their key freight into the U.K.
Rinse, repeat | European Union finance ministers failed after 16 hours of talking to agree on a coordinated strategy to manage the economic hit from the pandemic — but will try again tomorrow. France and Europe’s hardest-hit south are pitted against Germany and other northern states over whether to issue joint debt, as the Netherlands and Italy argue over conditions for the potential use of credit lines from a central bailout fund.
Evidence is mounting that March marked the start of a deep global recession, and the French central bank estimates its economy shrank the most since World War II in the first quarter. Read here about Europe’s trial-and-error economic shutdowns.
Uncharted territory | No U.S. president in decades has dared drive up the cost of oil. But the Russia-Saudi price war and the virus have sent prices plunging, putting Trump in the awkward position of asking countries he once chastised for the high cost of crude to turn off the taps. As Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Javier Blas report, the U-turn could reverberate for years.
Shutting doors | Since coming to office in 2015, Justin Trudeau has pursued a pro-immigration agenda to drive growth in both Canada’s economy and its population. But as Kait Bolongaro and Shelly Hagan report, the coronavirus pandemic could curtail that as the economy teeters into recession and demand for labor dries up.
The mask debate | The WHO may be questioning the effectiveness of masks as a defense against the coronavirus, but they’re being pushed by an increasing number of governments worldwide. From Asia to Europe, authorities are advising — and sometimes ordering — they be worn. One leader who isn’t convinced is Trump, who has said he doesn’t plan to use one.
What to Watch
Texas struck a blow against abortion rights when a federal appeals court ruled it can ban most procedures while the governor’s emergency decree to save medical supplies for fighting the pandemic is in effect. The U.K. plans to restart talks as soon as this month with the EU over their future relationship after delays caused by the coronavirus. Italy is likely to keep its schools closed until September under a plan the government is working on to gradually ease restrictions aimed at containing the virus, John Follain reports.
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And finally ... Caught for 76 days in the lockdown of Wuhan, Zeng Xiao took the first train out today — the 12:50 a.m. to Guangzhou in China’s south. She’s one of tens of thousands who rushed for an exit as travel restrictions were lifted in the city where the pandemic first emerged. With Wuhan’s economy crushed, Beijing’s priority is getting people back to work, but the risk of a further wave of infections is an ever-present concern.
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