Trump to ease lockdown, claims virus cases have 'passed peak'

The guidelines would be announced today, possibly taking effect before the end of this month

President Donald Trump vowed to unveil plans Thursday to reopen the world's top economy, following cautious moves in Europe, claiming the US had "passed the peak" of new coronavirus cases. His comments came shortly before the number of US fatalities - already the world's highest - reached a new daily record and became the heaviest one-day death toll of any nation.

Since emerging in China late last year, the coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down, forcing half of humanity indoors and catapulting the global economy towards a second Great Depression. The death toll has topped 134,000 with more than two million infected, according to Worldometers - with nearly 2,600 dying in the past 24 hours in the US alone.

But the US president told reporters his "aggressive strategy" against the virus was working and that "the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases". He promised swift "guidelines" on reopening parts of the country, suggesting less-affected states could ease restrictions before 1 May.

"We'll be the comeback kids, all of us," said Trump.

Meanwhile, leaders around the world are wrestling with the dilemma of how to return to normal and kick-start their shattered economies without risking a devastating second wave of infections. 

Earlier, Germany also unveiled its plans for cautious reopening, becoming the first major European nation to take on the delicate task of restarting its economy without triggering a new wave of infections before a vaccine can be developed. Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, urged "extreme caution".

Elsewhere in Europe, Denmark began reopening schools for younger children after a month-long closure and Finland lifted a blockade of Helsinki. Lithuania said it would allow smaller shops to reopen from Thursday, while hard-hit Iran is set to allow some small businesses to restart operations.

However, Britain was expected to extend its lockdown measures later Thursday and Belgium pushed its stay-at-home order back to 3 May.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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