US President Donald Trump has said he hopes the US will shake off coronavirus by Easter, even as New York’s governor sounded the alarm that the illness is spreading faster than “a bullet train”.
The president told a White House news briefing reopening the US early next month would be “a beautiful timeline”.
His optimistic tone came as the World Health Organization warned the US could become the pandemic’s global epicentre.
The US has recorded almost 55,000 cases and nearly 800 deaths.
Globally there have been more than 420,000 cases confirmed and approaching 19,000 deaths.
On Tuesday, he told Fox News he hoped the country could get back to normal by Easter, which is on 12 April.
Mr Trump, a Republican, said: “We’re going to be opening relatively soon… I would love to have the country opened up and just rearing to go by Easter.”
He added in a subsequent interview: “Easter is a very special day for me… and you’ll have packed churches all over our country.”
Mr Trump also warned that unless the country reopened for business it could suffer “a massive recession or depression”.
The president said: “You’re going to lose people. You’re going to have suicides by the thousands. You’re going to have all sorts of things happen. You’re going to have instability.”
Speaking at a White House briefing later, Mr Trump said he was beginning “to see the light at the end of the tunnel”, though he said “our decision will be based on hard facts and data”.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told the same press briefing: “No-one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”
With more than 25,000 coronavirus cases by Tuesday morning, the Empire state accounted for half of all US infections. (Courtesy BBC)