Trump proclaims national day of prayer to overcome COVID-19 threat. Image Source: IANS News

Washington, March 30 : US President Donald Trump said that the national social distancing guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus will be extended to April 30.

"We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread," Trump said at a White House Coronavirus Task Force news briefing held on Sunday at the White House Rose Garden. "On Tuesday, we will be finalizing these plans and providing a summary of our findings, supporting data and strategy to the American people." The president said "modelling suggests" that the peak of the COVID-19 death rate in the United States "is likely to hit in two weeks," adding that he hopes the country will be on its way to recovery by June 1, Xinhua news agency reported.

"We can expect that by June 1st, we will be well on our way to recovery, we think by June 1st," said the president.

Anthony Fauci, one of the leading health experts on the task force team, warned earlier in the day that the country could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths due to the contagious disease.

Fauci, also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the briefing that it is "entirely conceivable" that more than 1 million people in the country could be infected with the coronavirus, reiterating that 100,000 deaths are possible.

"The number I gave out is, you know, based on modeling," he told reporters. "What we're trying to do is not to let that happen." The social distancing guidelines -- originally designed to last 15 days and due to expire Tuesday if not extended -- advise Americans to avoid nonessential travel, prevent gatherings of 10 people or more, and the elderly to stay at home, among other steps.

Fauci said that he and Deborah Birx, the task force's response coordinator, recommended the extension, and that the president accepted it. He said to continue implementing the restrictive measures for another month is a "wise and prudent decision." The United States now has more than 140,000 confirmed cases, with the death toll currently standing at 2,467, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

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