In Brief

Coronavirus: What’s driving the anti-lockdown movement in US?

Egged on by Trump, Conservatives argue the damage being done to the economy outweighs the strain on the healthcare system

Protesters have taken to the streets of multiple US state capitals to voice their opposition to stay-at-home orders issued to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah - states which CNN notes are led by both Republican and Democratic governors - have all seen protests in recent days “as people grow more concerned about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic”, says the news network.

A Pew Research Center poll taken last week found a majority of Americans support the lockdowns, with 66% concerned state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly.

However, Conservative media hosts and some Republican leaders have argued that the damage being done to the economy and citizens’ livelihoods outweighs the strain being placed on the healthcare system.

“Yet while organisers claim the protests are grassroots- and people-driven, a closer look reveals a movement driven by traditional rightwing groups, including one funded by the family of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos” says The Guardian.

As with the Tea Party movement a decade ago, which emerged following the election of Barack Obama, “the anti-stay-at-home movement has been promoted by a rightwing media eager for the economy to reopen, including Fox News which on Friday aired a segment on protests in Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota”, says the paper.

Trump fanned the flames of the protest by tweeting to his 77.4 million followers the need to “liberate” those three states, all of which are governed by Democrats.

The BBC says “measures brought in to try to stop the spread of Covid-19 have been criticised as too harsh by some, while others say they aren't tough enough” but as pressure mounts to get the world’s biggest economy rolling again, “the vexing question of when to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions is dividing the epicentre of the pandemic”, says Al Jazeera.

“The president’s call for ‘liberation’ casts him as a cheerleader for American prosperity, desperate to reopen the economy, while the nanny state Democrats insist on keeping things closed,” The Times reports.

Euronews says US governors eager to rescue their economies are “feeling heat from President Donald Trump”, and the protests against stay-at-home orders organised by “small-government groups and Trump supporters” are only adding to pressure to ease restrictions meant to control the spread of the coronavirus, “even as new hot spots emerge and experts warn that moving too fast could prove disastrous”.

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