Trump floats New York lockdown to contain virus; governor says idea is ‘anti-American’

The number of cases in the United States eclipsed those of China and Italy on Thursday. Picture: REUTERS

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Saturday he might prohibit travel in and out of the New York area to limit the spread of the coronavirus from its U.S. epicenter, but the state’s governor dubbed the idea “anti-American” and said he would not cooperate.

As the U.S. death count crossed 2,000, doubling in three days, Trump said he might impose a quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut to protect other states that have yet to bear the brunt.

“They’re having problems down in Florida. A lot of New Yorkers are going down. We don’t want that,” Trump told reporters.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said a travel ban would cause chaos.

“If you started walling off areas all across the country it would be totally bizarre, counter-productive, anti-American,” he said on CNN. “It makes absolutely no sense and I don’t think any serious governmental personality or professional would support it.”

Since the virus first appeared in the United States in late January, Trump has vacillated between playing down the risks of infection and urging Americans to take steps to slow its spread.

The United States now has more than 120,000 confirmed cases, the highest figure in the world.

Trump has also been reluctant to invoke emergency powers to order U.S. companies to produce much-needed medical supplies, despite the pleas of governors and hospital workers.

On Saturday, he appeared to soften his previous comments calling for the U.S. economy to be reopened by mid-April. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.

It was not clear whether Trump would be able to block road, air and sea travel out of a region that serves as the economic engine of the eastern United States, accounting for 10 percent of the population and 12 percent of GDP.

Some states have already imposed limits. New Yorkers arriving in Florida and Rhode Island face orders to self-isolate if they intend to stay, and the governors of Pennsylvania and West Virginia have asked visiting New Yorkers to voluntarily self-quarantine.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu on Saturday asked all visitors to his state who don’t come for work reasons to voluntarily self-quarantine.

New coronavirus cases in China leveled off after the government imposed a strict lockdown of Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.

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