President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he wants to loosen the coronavirus lockdown in the United States and restart the economy within three weeks, calling social distancing measures too disruptive.
A lot of people agree with me. Our country - it's not built to shut down, he said on Fox News. You can destroy a country this way by closing it down.
I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter, said Trump. Easter is on Apr 12, 19 days away.
Social distancing and quarantine measures have been instituted across much of the United States, with stay-at-home orders for more than a third of the population, bringing the world's biggest economy to an abrupt halt.
An Ipsos/Axios poll released on Tuesday found that 74% of Americans have stopped attending large gatherings, while 48% have cancelled travel plans, leaving airports deserted.
Another significant casualty of the shutdown has been the presidential election campaign, with Trump having to halt a relentless series of big rallies around the country.
Health experts have advised the measures as the foundation for preventing the easily transmitted, potentially fatal illness from multiplying uncontrollably.
Trump called for a 15-day period of observation, which expires early next week.
But he made clear that he thinks the response has been blown out of proportion, saying we lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don't turn the country off.
We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn't call up the automobile companies to say, 'Stop making cars'.
The plunge in activity and warnings of recession or even depression are a brutal reversal for what was until a few weeks ago a humming economy, with record low unemployment.
With his re-election campaign temporarily knocked off track, Trump is now seeking to turn the coronavirus calamity into a dramatic comeback story that will deliver him a second term in November.
One of his main claims to a second term, prior to the coronavirus outbreak, was the strong economy.
We can't lose a Boeing, we can't lose some of these companies, he said on the Fox News broadcast from the White House. If we lose those companies we're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs, millions of jobs.
However, his push for a quick reopening of the economy carries the risk that some will see it as putting wealth over the survival of the sick, especially the vulnerable elderly.