In Brief

Why did Trump backtrack on New York quarantine?

US president U-turns on plan to impose strict measures on ‘hot spots’

US President Donald Trump has said quarantining New York “will not be necessary”, after the state’s governor dismissed the idea as “preposterous” and “anti-American”.

Trump had earlier said that he was considering a short-term quarantine in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which the president described as coronavirus “hot spots”.

“We're thinking about certain things,” he told reporters. “Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot.

“We might not have to do it, but there's a possibility that sometime today we'll do a quarantine, short-term, two weeks on New York. Probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut.”

Trump is under pressure to act after the US quickly developed into a battlefront in the coronavirus pandemic. The US has more than 120,000 reported cases across the country, with more than 52,000 of them in New York state alone.

However, Trump later rowed back on the quarantine idea, announcing on Twitter that instead of quarantine, a “strong travel advisory” would be issued to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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He said his latest decision was taken on the recommendation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. 

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed on CNN that Trump changed his mind after officials had “very intensive discussions” with the president at the White House.

The response of New York governor Andrew Cuomo is also thought to have swayed Trump’s thinking. Cuomo had said imposing quarantine would be “preposterous” and “anti-American”, reports the BBC.

“I don't even know what that means. I don't know how that could be legally enforceable” the Democratic governor said. “And from a medical point view, I don't know what you would be accomplishing. But I can tell you, I don't even like the sound of it.”

Comparing the measures to those taken in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic, Cuomo added that a quarantine would cause the stock market to crash in a way that would make it impossible for the US economy to “recover for months, if not years”.

Cuomo has become something of a television star during the pandemic, with CNN describing his press conferences as “appointment viewing”, noting that they form a “contrast” to President Donald Trump’s briefings.

The broadcaster reports that where Cuomo projects “competence and authority, with a dash of his idiosyncratic humour”, Trump is “meandering”.

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