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Experts warn Congress that US faces ‘historic’ coronavirus challenges

WASHINGTON: Trump administration health experts including Dr Anthony Fauci warned Congress on Tuesday that the United States faces "historic" challenges with the coronavirus and that Americans should brace for a lengthy battle against the pandemic.

He told Congress the US is seeing a "disturbing surge" of infections in parts of the country, as people refused to follow social distancing guidelines.

Many states also reopened without proper testing and contact tracing.

The US added 792 deaths in 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tally showed on Tuesday. The US is the hardest-hit country, with 121,176 dead out of more than 2.34 million cases.

Dr Fauci stressed it was difficult to predict how long the virus will remain a threat.

"While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, Covid-19 activity will likely continue for some time," the experts said in prepared testimony attributed to all of them, including Dr Fauci and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield. "These challenges are many, and they are historic."

Dr Fauci also said he feels "cautiously optimistic" about the pace of vaccine testing and reiterated his hope that broad production and use of a vaccine could come by "the end of this calendar year" or early 2021.

CRITICAL

Dr Redfield also made it clear in the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing that boosting testing was critical to bringing the virus under control.

The testimony came as Mr Trump faced criticism for telling a Saturday campaign rally - where most attendees did not wear masks, against CDC recommendations - that he wanted to actually slow coronavirus testing.

The virus is now increasing in 20 states including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Florida is a potential new hot spot that surpassed 100,000 cases on Monday, according to local health officials.

The inability to suppress the new case trend nationwide also raises the spectre of a "second wave," a scenario that some health experts warn could be compounded in the autumn and winter. - AFP

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