Washington | Warning the coronavirus disruption could last until August and acknowledging the growing recession risk, President Donald Trump issued a series of hard-line recommendations that Americans severely curb their movement for the next 15 days.
While he stopped short of a complete France- or Italy-style shutdown, Mr Trump signalled that the administration’s “tough stance” may just be a beginning.
In a White House briefing that sent Wall Street to worse ever points decline – and largest percentage falls since 1987, with key indexes shedding more than 12 per cent – officials said their latest recommendations aren’t “an overreaction”.
“This afternoon we’re announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days,” Mr Trump said.
They include closing schools, avoiding groups of more than 10, discretionary travel or visiting bars, restaurants and food courts.
“If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifice now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we’re going to have a big celebration together,” Mr Trump said.
Asked whether the federal government was contemplating a hard shutdown – similar to what is now unfolding in France, where citizens can no longer leave their homes – Mr Trump said: “at this point not nationwide… [but] we may look at certain areas, certain hotspots”.
Mr Trump said the latest recommendations were designed to keep death toll from the COVID-19 outbreak to “a level that is much lower”.
However, he noted that experts have been telling him that the virus may last until “about July, August”.
Challenged on whether the US economy is headed into recession, he said: “well, it may be”.
But Mr Trump said his focus was on “getting rid of this virus problem”.
The “best thing I can do for the stock market is get through this virus… once the virus is gone I think you’re going to have a stock market like never before”.
More to come.