US President Donald Trump extends coronavirus shutdown as US death toll hits 2,400

President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus briefing in the Rose Garden Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

US President Donald Trump has said he is extending the voluntary national shutdown for a month as illness and deaths from the coronavirus pandemic rise across the US.

The initial 15-day period of social distancing urged by the federal government expires on Monday and Mr Trump had expressed an interest in relaxing the national guidelines at least in parts of the country less affected by the pandemic.

But instead he decided to extend the measures to April 30, a tacit acknowledgment he had been too optimistic.

Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on movement and gatherings.

Mr Trump’s impulse to restore normality met a sober reality check on Sunday from Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, who said the US could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic.

Mr Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines reflected a recognition that the struggle will take place a longer time period.

The federal guidelines recommend against large group gatherings and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay at home.

President Donald Trump answered questions from the media Credit: Patrick Semansky/AP

People are urged to work at home when possible and avoid restaurants, bars, non-essential travel and shopping trips.

The extension would leave the federal recommendations in place beyond Easter on April 12, by which time Mr Trump had hoped the country and its economy could start to revive. Alarmed public health officials said Easter was sure to be too soon.

The US had more than 137,000 Covid-19 cases reported by late Sunday afternoon, with more than 2,400 deaths.

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