Washington mayor extends US capital's lockdown

Washington (AFP) –


Washington's mayor extended the US capital's lockdown Wednesday amid a stream of new coronavirus cases, even as many parts of the country gradually reopen in a push to prevent further economic damage.

The orders extend the city's home sheltering regime, which was set to expire Friday, to June 8, and came as similar measures were granted for the city's suburbs in the states of Maryland and Virginia.

The two states are gradually reopening their economies, but have permitted communities near the capital -- population: 700,000 -- to open under different timelines, due to heightened levels of COVID-19.

"The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 diagnoses has yet to fall and the number of daily deaths has failed to decline," Mayor Muriel Bowser said in her proclamation.

"Community transmission of COVID-19 remains widespread throughout the district," she said, as well as "in the Maryland and Virginia areas near Washington."

The capital alone has seen 6,584 cases and 350 deaths, numbers that do not take into account statistics from the vast, surrounding suburbs.

The capital's steady infection rate comes as some cities, such as New York, the nation's coronavirus epicenter, have seen a decline in cases, and as a patchwork of states have reopened business to varying degrees.

In her orders, Bowser said that "the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are below previous projections. Still, the district has not yet met the criteria for reopenings."

On Monday, the Washington mayor inaugurated a 437-bed temporary hospital at the city's Walter E. Washington Convention Center, adding that she hoped "we never get to the point of needing to use this site.

Maryland's Republican Governor Larry Hogan, meanwhile announced a lift to the state's stay-at-home orders as of Friday.

But, he told reporters that "we fully understand that not all counties are in the same situation."

Two of the counties directly outside the district, Prince George's and Montgomery, had indicated they were not ready to reopen, he said.

The state of Virginia, to the south of Washington, will begin a limited reopening on Friday as well, according to Governor Ralph Northam.

However the area surrounding Washington was excluded from the plan, and given a two-week delay.

Americans across the country have staged anti-lockdown demonstrations and President Donald Trump has pressed for rapid steps to rekindle the devastated US economy before a November election.