United States President Donald Trump said there would be “suicides by the thousands” if businesses were not re-opened soon, despite warnings from the World Health Organization that the country could become the new epicentre of the novel coronavirus.

Speaking on the White House front lawn for a Fox News town hall, Trump spoke of scaling back social distancing and re-opening restaurants and businesses, insisting that the U.S. “wasn’t built to be shut down.”

“I don’t want the cure be worse than the problem itself,” Trump said.

Trump says a bad economy will mean “suicides by the thousands” as he argues for reopening businesses during the coronavirus outbreak pic.twitter.com/eViToYnqv0

— Claudia Koerner (@ClaudiaKoerner) March 24, 2020

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Previously, Trump said he would “love” to re-open the economy by Easter, on April 12, adding the U.S. government would make its decision after a 15-day period.

The president’s comments go directly against the advice of the country’s medical professionals, who have pushed for social distancing and self-isolation to help flatten the curve of the pandemic.

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By Tuesday, the World Health Organization had announced over 42,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., increasing the country’s death toll to 471.

Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the organization,