Donald Trump’s coronavirus journey has been a twisting path.
In January and February he dismissed the threat of COVID-19, insisting that it would just “miraculously disappear” come the warmer months that we are now entering.
The US president’s comments about the virus being “totally under control” have not aged well, given that America now has more cases than any other country.
At the beginning of March he entered a phase of reluctant acceptance of the spread, but insisted it was being hyped up by his rivals.
“Be calm,” he said, “it will go away.”
But by the middle of that same month, Mr Trump had declared a national emergency, insisting he had taken the threat seriously from the start.
His “aspiration” to reopen America for business by 12 April with “packed churches” on Easter Sunday was short lived as experts told him – it is the virus that makes the timeline.
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Those same experts, Dr Deborah Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci – who lead Mr Trump’s coronavirus task force – recently presented him with terrifying data that appears to have hit home.
That modelling – in its most stark terms – says America’s best-case scenario is 100,000 deaths.
The worst case, with zero mitigation, would mean 2.2 million deaths.
It is that staggering and frightening number that has clearly influenced Mr Trump.
Before this data, his focus was clearly the tanking economy.
He still frequently laments the rosy pre-virus days of low unemployment and booming growth – that ticket to a second term is now in tatters.
But the president has made a recalculation – mass deaths are the worst possible stain on his re-election bid.
He is also fixated on ratings and polling.
New polls suggest that people are in favour of maintaining strict social distancing guidelines.
Coronavirus: The infection numbers in real time
Just days ago he was banking on the theory that Americans “want to get back to work”.
Now he seems to have accepted the prevailing reality – that most Americans simply want to survive.
He now says America should brace itself for tough days ahead, claiming the next two weeks are going to be “very, very painful”.
Dr Fauci and Dr Birx have successfully struck an incredibly delicate balance – presenting America with facts that do not always chime with the president’s desires and instincts, while showing just the right amount of deference to appease his ego and keep him on side.
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After a tortuous beginning, the White House message is now clear – social distancing is working, but it cannot stop.
Hundreds of thousands of lives depend on it.
But Trump is capricious, and there are voices around him urging him to prioritise the economy.
But for now at least, it is the true experts who have his ear.
Long may that continue.
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-donald-trumps-u-turn-over-strategy-to-tackle-the-virus-11967046