18 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: ‘Liberate’ states protesting against lockdown, says Trump

6:43 am on 18 April 2020

US President Donald Trump has appeared to endorse protests against stringent lockdown measures in several states.

Arlen Penfield, of Goochland, Virginia protests against stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus pandemic at Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia on April 16, 2020.

A man from Virginia protests against stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus pandemic at Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia. Photo: AFP

In a series of tweets, he said: "LIBERATE MINNESOTA", "LIBERATE MICHIGAN" and then "LIBERATE VIRGINIA".

Protesters say the severe economic restrictions are hurting citizens, but health officials warn lifting them could spread infection.

The US saw its highest daily death toll on Thursday, recording 4591 deaths in 24 hours.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

That spike could be because Johns Hopkins University, which records the data, began to include deaths with a Covid-19 probable cause.

The US has the highest number of cases and deaths worldwide, more than 672,200 confirmed infections and 33,000 deaths.

Demonstrations calling on authorities to end the shutdown have occurred in Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and Kentucky.

The states Trump referenced in Friday's tweets are all led by Democrats, despite Ohio and Utah having Republican governors.

More demonstrations are planned, including in Wisconsin, Oregon, Idaho and Texas.

The president's apparent support comes a day after his administration unveiled new guidance for re-opening state economies.

What does federal guidance say?

That guidance recommends three phases of slowly re-opening businesses and social life, with each phase lasting a minimum of 14 days.

It includes some recommendations across all three phases including good personal hygiene and employers developing policies to ensure social distancing, testing and contact tracing.

On Thursday, Trump said that reopening the US economy would be done "one careful step at a time" but he called on state governors to move "very, very quickly, depending on what they want to do".

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington, DC.

US President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

Why are people protesting?

Protesters say stringent restrictions on movement and businesses are an overreaction to the outbreak.

Organisers of the Liberate Minnesota protest scheduled to occur later on Friday wrote on Facebook: "It is not the governor's place to restrict free movement of Minnesota citizens!"

"President Trump has been very clear that we must get America back to work very quickly or the 'cure' to this terrible disease may be the worse option!"

The group added that the state's economy "will be dealt a death blow" if restrictions continue.

The event now has over 600 attendees marked on Facebook and some 2,800 more users interested in the event.

Earlier this week, in Michigan, thousands of protesting workers blocked roads, demanding the state reopen after Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended stay-at-home restrictions.

Governor Whitmer is also facing federal lawsuits against her orders shuttering non-essential businesses and limiting travel.

Attorney David Helm, who represents four residents in the lawsuit, told Fox 2 Detroit on Wednesday the governor's rules were "taking a sledge hammer to an ant".


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