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New York shutters, but Trump says no national lockdown

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New York (AFP)

New York followed California Friday in locking down to stem the coronavirus pandemic as President Donald Trump declared the United States was already "winning" the war despite a rapid rise in confirmed cases and deaths.

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to close and banned all gatherings in New York state, a day after his counterpart Gavin Newsom told California's 40 million residents to stay at home.

"We're all in quarantine now," Cuomo told reporters, warning of civil fines and mandatory closures for anyone violating the order, which takes effect on Sunday evening.

The escalation came as the total number of COVID-19-linked deaths in the US rose to 210 -- more than doubling in three days -- with more than 14,600 confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the surge, Trump said the world's number one power was "winning" and "going to win this war," and there was no need for a national lockdown mirroring the action taken in California and New York.

"Those are really two hotbeds. Those are probably the two hottest of them all in terms of hotspots," Trump told the now-daily briefing by the White House virus task force, adding that states in the American Midwest were not registering as many confirmed cases.

"So no, we're working with the governors and I don't think we'll ever find that necessary," he added.

The number of confirmed infections in New York jumped to 7,000 Friday, largely because of an increase in testing, Cuomo said, as he announced he would pass an executive order mandating that only essential businesses can remain open from late Sunday.

He stressed that essential services included grocery stores, pharmacies and food delivery.

Cuomo said that under "Matilda's Law," named after his mother, "non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size" were cancelled.

- US-Mexico border clampdown -

He ordered residents to only exercise alone and not hold any group activities outside, such as basketball.

He said citizens should avoid public transport "unless urgent and absolutely necessary."

"New York state (is) on pause," he said.

"These actions will cause disruption. They will cause much unhappiness. I understand that," Cuomo added.

He dismissed references to the measures as "shelter-in-place," which they have been called in California, but the rules effectively mount to the same thing.

California's statewide directive, which went into force Thursday evening, also instructs residents to remain at home unless necessary.

It allows gas stations, pharmacies, banks and laundry services to remain open while restaurants can still provide take-out and delivery.

"They are taking strong steps. I applaud them," Trump said, referring to Cuomo and Newsom.

Trump also announced Friday that the US and Mexico have agreed to restrict non-essential travel across their border beginning on Saturday.

He said the move, similar to one already announced with northern neighbor Canada, was necessary to prevent the "spread the infection to our border agents, migrants, and to the public at large."

On Capitol Hill, US senators began critical negotiations over a $1 trillion emergency stimulus package to help Americans ravaged by the coronavirus.

The version unveiled late Thursday includes onetime "recovery rebates" of up to $1,200 for adults earning under $99,000 annually, and hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees to industries hard hit by the crises including airlines and small businesses.

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