News Coronavirus Some US states to ease restrictions amid lockdown protests

Some US states to ease restrictions amid lockdown protests

Protesters is Texas are angry at stay-at-home orders costing people their livelihoods. Photo: Getty
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US President Donald Trump says  Texas and Vermont will allow certain businesses to reopen on Monday while still observing coronavirus-related precautions and Montana will begin lifting restrictions on Friday.

“We continue to see a number of positive signs that the virus has passed its peak,” Mr Trump told reporters at a Saturday briefing (local time).

Some state governors have warned, however, that they will not act prematurely to reopen their economies until there is more testing.

Texans anxious to get back to work have protested against widespread lockdowns, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state may finally be past the worst of its coronavirus crisis.

New York reported another 540 coronavirus-related deaths for April 17, the lowest daily tally since April 1.

The number of patients requiring intensive care and ventilators to help them breathe was also down in New York.

“If you look at the past three days, you could argue that we are past the plateau and we’re starting to descend, which would be very good news,” Mr Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday (local time).

Still, some 2000 people were being hospitalised with COVID-19 every day, Mr Cuomo said, and 36 of the latest New York deaths occurred at nursing homes, which have been ravaged by the pandemic nationwide.

In neighbouring New Jersey, some 40 per cent of coronavirus deaths are related to long-term care facilities, the state’s health commissioner said.

New Jersey reported another 231 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total there past 4000.

More than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks alone as closures of businesses and schools and severe travel restrictions have hammered the US economy.

Protesters, many wearing Donald Trump hats and shirts but not protective face masks, gathered in the Texas capital Austin on Saturday chanting “USA! USA!” and “Let us work!”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, on Friday (local time) extended school closures in his state through to the end of the academic year.

Earlier this week, similar protests erupted in the capitals of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

The demonstrations, which also featured large crowds of people neither practising social distancing nor wearing face coverings, angered governors who have been trying to bring coronavirus outbreaks under control.

Also angering those governors, all Democrats, were a series of Twitter posts on Friday by the president.

“LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA!” Mr Trump tweeted, apparently egging on the protests.

While Mr Trump agitates to get the country back up and running sooner rather than later, the Pentagon announced on Saturday it was extending travel restrictions for its personnel until the end of June.

Several states, including Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Florida, have said they aim to reopen parts of their economies, perhaps by May 1 or even sooner.

But health experts have cautioned that to avoid a second wave of infections as people return to work, extensive testing must be available to track infections.