WASHINGTON: Citing the 21-day national lockdown announced by India and tough measures by other countries, a top American daily has called for similar steps in the US to combat the coronavirus pandemic as authorities expressed alarm over the sharply-growing number of confirmed cases that has crossed the 50,000-mark.
On Monday, President Donald Trump indicated that he is unlikely to follow the suggestion of his medical advisors on a complete shutdown to tackle the coronavirus outbreak as he said such a move would have tremendous repercussions on the country's economy.
According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, there are at least 55,041 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States and over 700 people have died.
"The worst of the pandemic is yet to come. Listen to the medical experts. It's time for a national lockdown," The New York Times said in its lead editorial, published hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the unprecedented step of a three-week nationwide lockdown.
"President Trump needs to call for a two-week shelter-in-place order, now, as part of a coherent national strategy for the coronavirus to protect Americans and their livelihoods," the daily said.
The US, the daily said, has passed the point where aggressive, targeted efforts at tracking and containment, like those pursued by South Korea, have a realistic chance of success.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi ordered a total ban on leaving home for the population of 1.3 billion for the next three weeks.
He warned, "If you can't handle these 21 days, this country will go back 21 years."
Other countries have opted for narrower restrictions, and enforcement has varied.
But patchwork approaches, like the one the United States defaulted to in the absence of a national plan, have proven inadequate," said The New York Times.
Highly critical of the approach of President Trump so far, the paper said that rather than raising false expectations of a rapid and full return to business as usual, he needs to be pursuing even more drastic measures.
"He should announce that, within 24 hours, all non-essential businesses should be shut and residents directed to remain in their homes except for vital trips out, such as to obtain food or medical care.
"Provisions can be made for people to walk in outdoor public spaces, so long as they maintain a distance of at least six feet," said the editorial board of The New York Times.
Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the World Health Organisation, said as coronavirus cases continue to rise in the United States, the nation has "potential" to become the next epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported.
Harris said, "We are now seeing a very large acceleration in the numbers of cases from the United States -- so it does have that potential.We cannot say that that is the case yet, but it does have that potential."
Apart from New York, neighbouring New Jersey, along with California, Michigan, Illinois and Florida were the other coronavirus hotspots.
However, no new cases or deaths were reported in Washington, the state which was first hit by the pathogen in the US.
The US has the third-highest number of confirmed cases globally, behind China and Italy.