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Trump: Fauci remarks on reopening schools and economy unacceptable

WASHINGTON, DC: US Senator Lisa Murkowski, US Senator Mike Braun, US Senator Rand Paul listen as Dr Anthony Fauci answers questions during the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on COVID-19 on Wednesday. – AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday described as not acceptable a warning given by top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci this week about the dangers of reopening the economy and schools too quickly. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about Fauci’s warnings to senators on Tuesday about the risks of reopening the schools and economy too soon.

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also warned that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed more than 82,000 people in the United States and brought the economy to its knees. Trump, in contrast, said on Wednesday the only thing that would be acceptable would be professors or teachers “over a certain age” not holding classes. “I think they ought to take it easy for another few weeks,” he added.

The president, who previously made the strength of the economy central to his pitch for re-election in November, has encouraged states to reopen businesses and schools that were shuttered to halt the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Fauci, 79, a proponent of the lockdowns, has become a target for criticism from the American far right and online conspiracy theorists since he made statements about the outbreak that were at odds with Trump’s.

In April, Trump retweeted a call to fire Fauci, after the doctor said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner, spurring speculation his days in the administration could be numbered.
“Anthony is a good person, a very good person, I’ve disagreed with him,” Trump said in an interview earlier on Wednesday with Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria,” repeating his refrain that the country must reopen. “We want to do it safely, but we also want to do it as quickly as possible. … We have to get it open. I totally disagree with him on schools,” Trump said.

Asked about Trump’s comments, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN that Fauci was “sounding an honest voice of caution and I share his view.”
“I think we have to be very careful about the steps we take.”

Hacking row
China-linked hackers are breaking into American organizations carrying out research into COVID-19, US officials said on Wednesday, warning both scientists and public health officials to be on the lookout for cyber theft. In a joint statement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security said the FBI was investigating digital break-ins at US organizations by China-linked “cyber actors” that it had monitored “attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research.”

The statement offered no further details on the identities of the targets or the hackers. The Chinese Embassy in Washington condemned the allegations as “lies.”
“The FBI issued a warning based on presumption of guilt and without any evidence,” the embassy said in a written statement, adding the US accusation “undercuts the ongoing international cooperation against the pandemic.” Coronavirus-related research and data have emerged as a key intelligence priority for hackers of all stripes and Western intelligence organizations have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the targeting of public health and pharmaceutical organizations.
In a separate statement issued earlier on Wednesday, the head of New Zealand’s signals intelligence agency said it condemned any attempt to target COVID response-related infrastructure.
“We call upon all cyber actors to refrain from activity that may jeopardise national or international responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Andrew Hampton, the director-general of New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau.
Last week Reuters reported that Iran-linked cyberspies had targeted staff at US drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc., whose antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment so far proven to help COVID-19 patients.
In March and April, Reuters reported on advanced hackers’ attempts to break into the World Health Organization as the pandemic spread across the globe. – Reuters

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