Coronavirus: White House hopes for quick economic rebound

US President Donald Trump Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Trump administration officials spoke optimistically about a relatively quick rebound from the coronavirus on Sunday.

It came as life within the White House reflected the stark challenges still posed by the pandemic, with Vice President Mike Pence “self-isolating” after one of his aides tested positive.

A balancing act was playing out the world over, with leaders starting to loosen lockdowns that have left millions unemployed while also warning of the threat of a second wave of infections.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin predicted the American economy would rebound in the second half of this year from unemployment rates that rival the Great Depression.

“I think you’re going to see a bounce-back from a low standpoint,” Mr Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday.

Mr Mnuchin, and other economic advisers to the Trump administration, have emphasised the importance of states getting more businesses and offices open even as the pandemic makes its way to the White House complex.

More economic activity and travel will likely lead to more people contracting Covid-19. But tight restrictions on which businesses can operate are causing huge increases in the ranks of the unemployed.

Another 3.2 million US workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the last seven weeks to 33.5 million.

“If we do this carefully, working with the governors, I don’t think there’s a considerable risk,” Mr Mnuchin said. “Matter of fact, I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening. You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public.”

But the director of the University of Washington institute that created a White House-endorsed coronavirus model said the moves by states to re-open businesses “will translate into more cases and deaths in 10 days from now”.

Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said states where cases and deaths are going up more than expected include Illinois, Arizona, Florida and California.

In a reminder of the continued threat, Mr Pence’s move came after three members of the White House’s coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after coming into contact with the aide.

Meanwhile, families in the US and other countries marked Mother’s Day in a time of social distancing.

For many, it was their first without loved ones lost in the pandemic. Others sent good wishes from a safe distance or through phone and video calls.

The virus has caused particular suffering for the elderly, with more than 26,000 deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the United States, according to an Associated Press tally.

Global coronavirus cases and deaths Credit: PA Graphics

In Germany, which was also celebrating mothers, officials made an exception to allow children who live outside the country to enter for a Mother’s Day visit. Germany’s restrictions currently forbid entry except for “compelling reasons”, such as work.

In Grafton, West Virginia, where the tradition of Mother’s Day began 112 years ago, the brick building now known as the International Mother’s Day Shrine held its first online-only audience. Anna Jarvis first held a memorial service for her mother and all mothers on the second Sunday of May in 1908.

Matilda Cuomo, the mother of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, called into her son’s daily briefing so he and his three daughters could wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

“I am so blessed as many mothers today are,” she said.

The US has had 1.3 million infections and nearly 80,000 deaths, the most in the world by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds fly past the Toronto skyline as part of Operation Inspiration, their cross-country salute to Canadians helping fight the spread of Covid-19 Credit: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press/AP

Worldwide, four million people have been reported infected and more than 280,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

Germany, which managed to push new infections below 1,000 daily before deciding to loosen restrictions, has had regional spikes in cases linked to slaughterhouses and nursing homes.

France is letting some younger students go back to school on Monday after almost two months out. Attendance will not be compulsory right away.

Residents of some Spanish regions will be able to enjoy limited seating at bars, restaurants and other public places on Monday, but Madrid and Barcelona, the country’s largest cities, will remain shut down.

China, where the virus was first detected, reported 14 new cases on Sunday, its first double-digit rise in 10 days.

Eleven of 12 domestic infections were in the northeastern province of Jilin, prompting authorities to raise the threat level in one of its counties to high risk, just days after downgrading all regions to low risk.

South Korea reported 34 more cases as new infections linked to nightclubs threaten its hard-won gains against the virus. It was the first time South Korea’s daily infections were above 30 in about a month.