Published: 10:59, July 18, 2020 | Updated: 22:09, June 5, 2023
Trump says he won't consider a national mask mandate

A woman wearing a face mask and shield sits in a subway train during rush hour amid the coronavirus pandemic on July 16, 2020, in New York City. (JOHANNES EISELE / AFP)

WASHINGTON / NEW YORK / GENEVA / OTTAWA / SANTIAGO / CAIRO / PARIS / BERLIN / MEXICO CITY / RABAT / MOSCOW / CAPE TOWN / MADRID / LONDON - US President Donald Trump said Friday he won't issue an order at the national level mandating the use of masks, even as the United States continued to break its single-day coronavirus case record amid a pandemic far from being contained, and whether to wear masks has become a source of heated debate.

Asked by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace if he would consider issuing a national mask mandate to slow the spread of the virus, Trump said: "No, I want people to have a certain freedom and I don't believe in that, no," according to a clip of the Fox News Sunday show, the full version of which will be aired Sunday.

"I don't agree with the statement that if everyone wore a mask, everything disappears," the president added, as Wallace pointed out that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the virus would be brought under control if everyone wore a mask.

"Dr (Anthony) Fauci said don't wear a mask, our surgeon general -- terrific guy -- said don't wear a mask. Everybody was saying don't wear a mask, all of a sudden everybody's got to wear a mask," Trump said. "And as you know, masks cause problems too. With that being said, I am a believer in masks. I think masks are good."

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Trump has been refusing to wear a mask himself since the pandemic broke out, citing his good health and frequent negative tests for the virus.

He was seen wearing a mask in public for the first time on July 11 while visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, some three months after the CDC recommended that Americans do so because asymptomatic bearers of the virus could still transmit it to others.

Along with the surge in coronavirus cases -- topping 3.5 million after the mind-boggling single-day record of 72,045 infections was set on Thursday, as per CDC's data -- the mask issue has been politicized to the extent that it has become a symbol of allegiance: Those refusing to wear masks support Trump while those donning them are against him.

Earlier in July, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also said the option of a national mask mandate was not on the table. He told the "Fox & Friends" program on July 6 that "a national mandate is not in order. We're allowing our governors and our local mayors to weigh in on that."

In recent weeks, though, even Republicans have rallied around wearing masks, with at least one GOP lawmaker bluntly suggesting that Trump himself do so publicly.

Regretting the fact that the "simple lifesaving practice" of wearing a mask has been politicized to showcase whether one supports Trump or not, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said on June 30 that he had "suggested the president should occasionally wear a mask even though there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so."

Meanwhile, governors and municipal-level officials have requested that residents wear masks to halt the virus resurgence.

Global cases

Global confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 14 million on Friday, reaching 14,060,402 as of 10:35 pm local time (0235 GMT on Saturday), according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the death toll worldwide rose to a total of 601,820, the data showed.

The United States suffered the most from the pandemic, with 3,641,539 cases and 139,176 fatalities, followed by Brazil with 2,046,328 cases and 77,851 deaths, the tally showed.

Countries with more than 300,000 cases also include India, Russia, Peru, South Africa, Mexico and Chile; and countries with over 30,000 deaths are Britain, Mexico, Italy and France, according to the center.


One day after Brazil surpassed 2 million coronavirus cases, the World Health Organization said the outbreak has reached a plateau in the country.

“The rise in Brazil is no longer exponential,” WHO Executive Director Michael Ryan said in a press conference Friday. “There is a plateau, there is an opportunity here now for Brazil to push the disease down, to suppress the transmission of the virus, to take control,” he said, adding that it will take “sustained, concerted action.”

The Latin American nation trails only the US in coronavirus infections and deaths globally, with almost 78,000 fatalities. The country’s response -- no national guidelines, two health ministers who departed and a leader that has often belittled the disease -- has been criticized by health experts and by the WHO itself. President Jair Bolsonaro said last month the government was considering withdrawing from the international health agency, following the move of US President Donald Trump.

The spread of the virus has shifted in location across Brazil in recent weeks. While in the original urban epicenters like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro the numbers have stabilized, the disease is nevertheless spreading fast in Brazil’s poorer, more remote areas. The impoverished Northeast region now counts nearly as many cases as the Southeast, where Rio and Sao Paulo are located. The outbreak has also began to hit states like Santa Catarina, which had been spared earlier in the crisis and has seen cases more than triple in the past month.

On Friday, Brazil reported 34,177 new cases and 1,163 deaths from the disease. The country, home to 210 million people, has registered over 260,000 infections in each of the past two weeks, the highest tallies since the virus was first reported locally in late February. Deaths have hovered above 7,000 a week for about a month.

“The numbers have stabilized, but what they haven’t done is start to fall in a systematic, day-by-day way,” Ryan said. “Brazil is still very much in the middle of this fight.”

Health workers take residents' blood samples at a testing site for COVID-19 amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 17, 2020. (SILVIA IZQUIERDO / AP)


A recent spike in coronavirus cases in Canada is worrying and can be linked to groups of young people gathering in bars and nightclubs and at parties, a top medical official said on Friday.

“When we examine recent trends in case reporting, there is some cause for concern. After a period of steady decline, daily case counts have started to rise,” Howard Njoo, the deputy chief public health officer, told a briefing.

The daily case count rose to an average of 350 over the last week up from 300 a day earlier in July, Njoo said. More than 430 cases were reported on Thursday.

Canada has reported 109,266 total cases and 8,827 deaths, far fewer than the United States.


The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Friday that the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country has risen to 326,539, with 8,347 deaths.

According to the ministry, 98 new deaths and 2,840 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours.

The ministry's report said that 1,796 people are currently hospitalized in intensive care units across the country, with 1,502 patients on ventilators. Of these, 327 are in critical condition.

The Ministry of Health also said that 18,699 tests for COVID-19 were administered in the last 24 hours, for a total of 1,370,603 tests administered since the virus was first detected in the country in March.


Egypt reported 703 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the health ministry said, the lowest figure since late May.

In total, 86,474 COVID-19 cases have been reported and 4,188 deaths, including 68 on Friday, the ministry said in a statement.

Egypt reopened resorts to foreign tourists on July 1 after tourism came to a halt in March under measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak. But Egypt has not made it yet to a “safe list” of countries for resumption of non-essential travel to the European Union, which is reviewed every two weeks.

Tourism accounts for 5 tourism of Egypt’s economic output, according to the government. Analysts put the figure as much as 15 tourism if jobs indirectly related to the sector are included.

A biologist collects a sample from a woman at a COVID-19 test, in Laval, Western France, on July 17, 2020, as part of a massive testing campaign in the area after an outbreak cluster was identified amid the crisis linked with the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP)


France on Friday reported 836 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours to stand at 174,674, amid rising concerns over renewed flare-ups of the epidemic.

The number of deaths in France from the new coronavirus rose to 30,152 on Friday from 30,138 on Thursday, the country’s health department said on Friday.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, fell to 6,688 from 6,796 on Thursday, continuing a weeks-long downtrend.


Germany's COVID-19 cases rose by 529 within one day to 201,372, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Saturday.   

The death toll in the country rose by one to 9,083, it added.


Mexico registered 7,257 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 736 new deaths, bringing the nationwide caseload to 331,298 and death toll to 38,310, the Mexican Health Ministry reported on Friday.

As the testing capacity grows, the government estimates the real number of infections is likely higher than the current confirmed cases.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday that he will donate a fourth of his salary to help the country overcome the current COVID-19 crisis. He also encouraged the country's public servants to donate from their earnings.


A total of 181 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Morocco on Friday, raising the total number in the North African country to 16,726.

The death toll from the virus rose to 264 after one fatality was recorded in the last 24 hours, said Hind Ezzine, head of the department of epidemic diseases of the health ministry, at a regular press briefing.

The number of cured patients increased to 14,360 with 395 new recoveries, she added.

The COVID-19 death rate in Morocco stabilizes at 1.6 percent, with the recovery rate at 86 percent, the official noted.


Russia registered 6,234 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, taking its nationwide tally to 765,437, the country's coronavirus response center said in a statement Saturday.

The country's death toll has surged by 124 to 12,247, while 546,863 people have recovered, including 7,490 in the last 24 hours, the statement added.

Moscow, the country's worst-hit region, reported 578 new confirmed cases, taking its tally of infections to 232,954.

On Friday, 273,822 people were still under medical observation, while over 24.6 million tests have been conducted across the country, Russia's consumer rights and human well-being watchdog said Saturday in a separate statement.

South Africa

South Africa on Friday confirmed 13,373 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to 337,594 in the country, said South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Meanwhile, the country reported 135 more COVID-19 deaths in th past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,804, said Mkhize.

Gauteng, the smallest and most populous province, reported 5,513 new cases in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day surge among all provinces. This brought the total number of cases to 23,408 in the province, which overtook the Western Cape to become the country's epicenter eight days ago.

The Western Cape came second with 84,254 cases.

Customers buy fish and meat at a market in Barcelona, Spain, July 17, 2020. (EMILIO MORENATTI / AP)


Spain's Ministry of Health on Friday reported a marked increase in new COVID-19 cases, affecting especially the northeastern autonomous communities of Catalonia and Aragon.

In the last 24 hours, 628 new cases have been confirmed, of which 252 in Aragon and 121 in Catalonia.

These numbers have led the Catalan regional government to ask residents in the metropolitan area of Barcelona to remain at home and to avoid meetings of more than 10 people in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. Movement in and out of the Segria region around the city of Lleida has already been restricted for almost two weeks. 

As a result of the surge in infections in Aragon, the areas of Zaragoza and Huesca had to revert back from the "new normality" to Phase 2 of the Spanish government's 4-phase plan to scale down confinement measures, limiting the number of people allowed to meet or stay inside bars and restaurants.

According to the Health Ministry, as of Friday, 28,420 people had lost their lives to COVID-19 in Spain. The number of those infected reached 260,255, and 150,376 people have recovered.

Passengers wear face masks as a precaution against the transmission of the novel coronavirus as they alight a London Underground tube train in London on July 17, 2020. (TOLGA AKMEN / AFP)


British ministers are making plans to distribute millions of free coronavirus antibody tests after a version backed by the UK government passed its first major trials, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Friday.

The fingerprick tests, which can tell within 20 minutes if a person has ever been exposed to the coronavirus, were found to be 98.6 percent accurate in secret human trials held in June, the newspaper reported.

It added the test was developed by the UK Rapid Test Consortium (UK-RTC), a partnership between Oxford University and leading UK diagnostics firms.

Britain’s only antibody tests approved thus far have involved blood samples being sent to laboratories for analysis, which can take days, The Telegraph said.

Anticipating a regulatory approval in the coming weeks, tens of thousands of prototypes have already been manufactured in factories across the United Kingdom, the report added.

Ministers are hoping that the AbC-19 lateral flow test will be available for use in a mass screening programme before the end of the year, the newspaper reported.

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The tests are likely to be free and would be ordered online instead of being sold in supermarkets, according to plans cited by the newspaper.

As of Friday morning, 293,239 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Britain, a daily increase of 687, the British Department of Health and Social Care announced.