With new US economic numbers highlighting the rough road ahead for a hoped-for rebound, President Donald Trump has taken aim at the World Health Organisation and China, blaming both for their roles in the pandemic’s devastation.
Trump announced that the United States will end its support for WHO, charging it didn’t respond adequately to the health crisis because of China’s “total control” over the global organisation. Trump said Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the agency to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.
Earlier Friday, US Commerce Department statistics showed a record-shattering 13.6 per cent drop in spending in April, a day after a federal jobs report showed another 2 million-plus Americans went out of work last week. The depth of the spending drop is particularly damaging because consumer spending is the primary driver of the economy.
The bad economic news was echoed in Europe, where an extensive social welfare net was showing signs of fraying, as protests erupted for a second day in Spain against layoffs by French carmaker Renault and Italy’s chief central banker warned that “uncertainty is rife.”
Some US states were going ahead with steps to reopen businesses and leisure activities needed to spur spending and restore jobs, but there were also reminders of the risks of moving too quickly.
In Missouri, officials said they were trying to notify “mass numbers of unknown people” after someone who attended crowded pool parties Memorial Day weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks tested positive for COVID-19. Video of the parties circulated widely online, with many people criticising revellers for flouting social distancing guidelines.
Arkansas over the past week has seen a steady rise in active coronavirus cases, following moves by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to reopen businesses shuttered during the pandemic.
Health officials on Thursday announced the number of active cases, excluding people who have recovered or died, hit a new high of 1,830 in the state, which has had a total of 6,538 cases. Arkansas also hit a record for a one-day increase in infections in the community, meaning ones that don’t include the incarcerated.