New York-Anxiety ratcheted up Monday across an eerily deserted New York, America’s coronavirus epicenter, but President Donald Trump said he’d soon call for lifting the lockdown in some parts of the country. Trump -- who faces reelection in November and is keen to avoid extended economic damage -- told reporters he would be “opening up our country to business because our country was meant to be open.”

The relaxation could be announced early next week when a 15-day period recommending tight restrictions on social distancing expires, he said, stressing that governors would make final decisions in their own states. Health officials and state governors dealing with the worst outbreaks have said they expect restrictions will have to continue for some time -- and New York’s mayor called for a nationwide lockdown.

As the number of deaths in the United States from COVID-19 soared to 560, with almost 44,000 declared cases, the Big Apple found itself the US bullseye of the global pandemic. With millions of residents ordered to stay home and non-essential businesses and schools closed, the city that never sleeps is bedding down for an uncertain slumber.

For Christian Hofer, and his wife and two young children, the hardest is not knowing how long the unprecedented measures are going to last.

“It goes from a range of emotions, from feeling very nervous about the situation to feeling like how absurd it is,” the 42-year-old Wall Street trader told AFP.

New York City has now seen more than 12,000 confirmed cases and almost 100 deaths in the outbreak, which first appeared in the United States in Washington state. With only essential workers, such as pharmacists, grocery store workers, nurses and doctors, headed to work Monday, rush hour in the city was more like a trickle of traffic.

New York’s yellow cabs were out but passengers appeared few and far between with sidewalks virtually deserted. Underground, normally packed subway cars trundled along close to empty.