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Top US expert: Coronavirus cases could double to 100,000 per day

Expert says country not in control with more than 40,000 new cases daily

WASHINGTON: New US coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if the current surge spirals further out of control, the government's top infectious diseases expert warned on Tuesday.

California, Texas and Arizona have emerged as new epicentres of the pandemic, each reporting record increases in Covid-19 cases, adding to pressure on scores of potential vaccines being rushed into trials.

"Clearly, we are not in total control right now," Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a US Senate committee. "I am very concerned because it could get very bad."

Dr Fauci said the daily increase in new cases nationwide, currently around 40,000, could reach 100,000 unless a full nationwide effort was undertaken to tamp down the resurgent virus.

"We can't just focus on those areas that are having the surge. It puts the entire country at risk," he said.

Dr Fauci said there was no guarantee of having a vaccine to prevent infection soon, but that early data had left scientists "cautiously optimistic" for next year.

Infections in California rose by 8,441 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. The US as a whole saw its biggest one-day spike in new infections on Tuesday with more than 47,000 cases.

It had 1,199 fatalities over the previous 24 hours, the Johns Hopkins University tally showed. The number of daily deaths had not exceeded 1,000 since June 10. The country has suffered 127,322 deaths overall.

In a separate development, Democrat Joe Biden said Tuesday he will not hold presidential campaign rallies during the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented declaration that stands in stark contrast with US president Donald Trump who has already held large campaign gatherings.

Mr Biden, 77, also ramped up his criticism of the president's handling of the pandemic, saying Mr Trump had "failed" the American people and "waved the white flag" of surrender in the fight against the virus.

"This is the most unusual campaign I think in modern history," the former vice-president said in Delaware at his first press conference since securing his party's presidential nomination nearly four weeks ago.

He did not say whether his decision could change if conditions improve in the coming months. If he avoids rallies altogether until election day on Nov 3, it would be an extraordinary move for a modern American presidential candidate, as campaigns are often gauged by the strength of their public messaging and enthusiasm.

Mr Trump, on the other hand, shifted the blame yet again to China. On Tuesday, he said he was growing "more and more angry at China" over the spread of the coronavirus.

"As I watch the Pandemic spread its ugly face all across the world, including the tremendous damage it has done to the USA, I become more and more angry at China," Mr Trump tweeted. - REUTERS, AFP

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