North America

'Let us work': US protesters demand end to coronavirus lockdowns

Protesters in Florida demand the end of stay-at-home orders and the reopening o businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps thousands of people out of work. Source: AAP

Hundreds of people have protested in cities across America against coronavirus lockdowns - with encouragement from President Donald Trump - as resentment grows against the crippling economic cost of confinement.

Texans anxious to get back to work have protested against widespread lockdowns, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state may finally be past the worst of its coronavirus crisis.

New York reported another 540 coronavirus-related deaths on 17 April, the lowest daily tally since 1 April.

Protesters rally at the Texas State Capitol to call for an end to the coronavirus lockdown.
Protesters rally at the Texas State Capitol to call for an end to the coronavirus lockdown.
AAP

The number of patients requiring intensive care and ventilators to help them breathe was also down in New York.

"If you look at the past three days, you could argue that we are past the plateau and we're starting to descend, which would be very good news," Mr Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday.

Some 2000 people were still being hospitalised with COVID-19 every day, Mr Cuomo said, and 36 of the latest New York deaths occurred at nursing homes, which have been ravaged by the pandemic nationwide.

In neighbouring New Jersey, some 40 per cent of coronavirus deaths are related to long-term care facilities, the state's health commissioner said.

New Jersey reported another 231 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total there past 4000.

More than 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits in the past few weeks alone as closures of businesses and schools and severe travel restrictions have hammered the US economy.

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Protesters, many wearing Donald Trump hats and shirts but not protective face masks, gathered in the Texas capital Austin on Saturday chanting "USA! USA!" and "Let us work!"

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, extended school closures on Friday in his state through to the end of the academic year.

Texas protesters rally against the state's coronavirus lockdown.
Texas protesters rally against the state's coronavirus lockdown.
AAP

Earlier this week, similar protests erupted in the capitals of Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia.

The demonstrations, which also featured large crowds of people neither practising social distancing nor wearing face coverings, angered governors who have been trying to bring coronavirus outbreaks under control.

Also angering those governors, all Democrats, were a series of Twitter posts on Friday by the president.

"LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA!" Mr Trump tweeted, apparently egging on the protests.

While Mr Trump agitated to get the country back up and running sooner rather than later, the Pentagon announced on Saturday it was extending travel restrictions for its personnel until the end of June.

Several states, including Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Florida, have said they aim to reopen parts of their economies, perhaps by May 1 or even sooner.

But health experts have cautioned that to avoid a second wave of infections as people return to work, extensive testing must be available to track infections.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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