Trump shifts rhetoric as he warns of worsening pandemic

AFP

US President Donald Trump, in a shift in rhetoric and tone, warned that the coronavirus pandemic would get worse before it got better.

In his first press briefing in months focused on the outbreak, Trump urged people to wear masks if they cannot maintain social distance.

"I will use it, gladly," he said. "Anything that potentially can help ... is a good thing."

Trump's remarks were a change in strategy from his robust emphasis on reopening the US economy after its long, virus-induced shutdown and represented his first recent acknowledgement of how bad the problem has become.

"It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better - something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is," Trump told reporters.

Mask-wearing has become a partisan issue, with some supporters of the president arguing that requirements to wear one infringe on their civil liberties. Few people wore masks at Trump's first rally since the pandemic in Tulsa, Oklahoma, earlier this summer.

Nearly 142,000 people have died in the US from the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19, the most of any country.

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