World

Trump feels ‘powerful’, returns to campaign trail

US President claims he is now immune to Covid-19 as rival Joe Biden criticises him for downplaying the virus

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump travelled to Pennsylvania yesterday for his second campaign rally since his bout with Covid-19, while Democratic rival Joe Biden is heading to Florida as the fight for the White House focuses on two of the biggest battleground states.

Mr Trump returned to the campaign trail on Monday night in Florida for the first time since disclosing he had the coronavirus, throwing out protective masks to supporters but not wearing one himself as he talked about his recovery.

"I went through it now. They say I'm immune. I feel so powerful," Mr Trump told the crowd, who stood shoulder to shoulder, with most not wearing face coverings.

"I will kiss everyone in that audience, I will kiss the guys and the beautiful women, I will give you a big fat kiss."

The rally came hours after the White House said Mr Trump had tested negative for Covid-19 on consecutive days and was not infectious to others.

They were the president's first negative Covid-19 tests announced by the White House since Mr Trump said on Oct 2 that he had contracted the virus.

Dr Sean Conley, who made the announcement, did not say when the tests were conducted.

Mr Biden has been critical of Mr Trump's management of the pandemic.

Mr Trump has worked furiously for months to shift public attention away from the coronavirus, which has infected more than 7.8 million people in the US, killed more than 214,000 and put millions out of work.

MASKS

Critics have faulted Mr Trump for failing to encourage supporters at campaign events and White House staff to wear protective masks and abide by social distancing guidelines.

At least 11 close Trump aides have tested positive for the virus.

As Mr Trump was holding his rally, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci told CNBC the US faced a "whole lot of trouble" if it did not encourage universal wearing of face masks and avoid mass gatherings.

"We have a baseline of infections now that varies between 40 and 50,000 per day. That's a bad place to be when you're going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter," Dr Fauci said.

"We're in a bad place now. We've got to turn this around," he added.

In an earlier interview with CNN, Dr Fauci said Mr Trump's campaign team should withdraw an advertisement that draws on a statement Dr Fauci made that he says is being used out of context.

He called the ad, which was released last week, "unfortunate and really disappointing".

The ad discusses Mr Trump's effort to recover from Covid-19, as well as his administration's work to address the coronavirus pandemic. The 30-second spot uses public remarks from Dr Fauci in a way that suggests he was praising the president.

The remarks came from a March interview in which Dr Fauci discussed the broader effort to fight the virus, including by the White House task force.

Dr Fauci has said that he has never publicly endorsed a political candidate for public office.

Meanwhile, speaking in Cincinnati on Monday, Mr Biden criticised Mr Trump for playing down the threat and mocked the president's statements that he did not want to panic Americans.

"Trump is the one who panicked. His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis, as well, has been unconscionable. And the longer Donald Trump is president, the more reckless he gets," Mr Biden said. - REUTERS

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