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COVID-19 WATCH

US gov’t recommends wearing masks outside

Agence France-Presse

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People wearing masks and gloves wait to check out at a supermarket in Uniondale, New York. (AFP)

President Donald Trump announced Friday new government recommendations for all Americans to wear masks when they go outside to help deter spread of the coronavirus.

Trump told a White House press conference that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging people to wear any face covering, like scarves, but to keep medical-grade masks free for health workers.

“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” he underlined. “You don’t have to do it and I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s okay.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Friday urged top-level UN talks on the coronavirus crisis, with France pushing for a focus on war zones around the world.

The two leaders spoke by phone and “discussed convening P5 leaders soon to increase UN cooperation on defeating the pandemic and ensuring international peace and security,” the White House press office said.

The P5, or permanent five members of the UN Security Council, are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Macron’s office said that this would be “an important signal” in the face of a global pandemic that poses a particular threat in areas of armed conflict.

However, the P5 countries have been at odds over recent weeks when it comes to issues surrounding the virus.

The United States and China have engaged in a war of words over the COVID-19’s origins, while Russia and China are not keen to see the UN Security Council treat the issue as more than a health and economic matter.

Macron is pushing for a Security Council resolution supporting the UN secretary general’s appeal for a worldwide ceasefire in war zones and access to civilian populations to help them combat the virus’ spread, the French presidency says.

However, a diplomat who asked not to be identified said that the US-Chinese row “has deepened.”

Both France and the United States are also among the many advanced countries facing severe economic slowdowns due to crippling lockdowns meant to break the pandemic’s growth.

The White House said “President Trump conveyed that the United States stands with the French people and expressed condolences for those who have lost their lives in France.”

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