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Trump urges residents to ‘liberate’ themselves from virus lockdown

Donald Trump has encouraged people living in three American states to “liberate” themselves from strict self isolation orders being enforced due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He tweeted from Washington on Friday (local time) seemingly encouraging protests against stay-at-home rules as some states under Republican leadership moved toward easing their restrictions.

A day after laying out a road map to gradually reopen the crippled economy, Trump tweeted the kind of rhetoric some of his supporters have used to demand the lifting of the orders that have left millions out of work.

"LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" "LIBERATE VIRGINIA," he said in a tweet-storm in which he also lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for criticising the federal response.

Cuomo "should spend more time 'doing' and less time 'complaining’," the president said.

Trump shared these three tweets in succession urging that people in these three states be "liberated". Source: Twitter/realDonaldTrump
Trump shared these three tweets in succession urging that people in these three states be "liberated". Source: Twitter/realDonaldTrump

Responding to pleas from governors for help from Washington in ramping up testing for the virus, Trump put the burden back on them: "The States have to step up their TESTING!"

Trump claimed Friday that "very partisan voices" had spread "false and misleading information" about the nation's testing capacity. But he said "we'll help New York and all of the other states get even better on their testing."

At the same time, at least two states took their first steps toward easing the restrictions.

In Florida, GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis said municipalities could reopen beaches and parks if they could do so safely. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said stores could begin selling curbside, nonessential surgery could resume and state parks could reopen.

Sensitive about persistent questions about the capacity for testing, Trump had his health team lead an extensive briefing Friday outlining that adequate capacity exists to get states through the first phase of the guidelines for how they should reopen.

Trump sent a series of tweets calling on the liberation of people from self isolation restrictions. Source: AAP
Trump sent a series of tweets calling on the liberation of people from self isolation restrictions. Source: AAP

Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to see businesses reopen quickly and claimed earlier this week that he had total authority over the matter, even though the lockdowns and other social-distancing measures have been imposed by state and local leaders, not Washington.

"We may be opening but we're putting safety first," Trump said.

On Thursday, he outlined a three-step set of guidelines for easing restrictions over a span of several weeks in places that have robust testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, assuring the nation's governors: "You're going to call your own shots."

But governors of both parties suggested Friday that they would be cautious in returning to normal, with some warning that they can't do it without help from Washington to expand testing.

"The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say, 'Oh, the states are responsible for testing,'" said Cuomo, a Democrat.

"We cannot do it without federal help."

The official death toll in New York City soared by more than half earlier this week when health authorities began including people who probably had COVID-19 but died without being tested. Nearly 3,800 deaths were added to the city's count.

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