US President Donald Trump taken to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19


US President Donald Trump is being taken to hospital less than 24 hours after testing positive for coronavirus.

The White House said the decision to transport him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre was taken “out of an abundance of caution”.

Trump began exhibiting “mild symptoms” of Covid-19 on Thursday after disclosing that he and his wife had gone into quarantine late Wednesday.

The White House said he was feeling “fatigued but in good spirits”.

Doctors urged the move so Trump could get immediate care if needed, a White House official said.

A source familiar with the situation said Trump has a mild fever.

Trump’s disappearance from the campaign trail threw a giant and immediate question mark over the fate of his bid for a second term, which opinion polls show him on course to lose to Democrat Joe Biden.

The overriding theme of Biden’s campaign has been that Trump’s frequent downplaying of the pandemic and mixed messaging on mask wearing are to blame for the scale of the crisis in the United States, where more than 200,000 people have died.

Biden, who stood in close proximity to Trump for 90 minutes during their ill-tempered first debate Tuesday in Cleveland, announced that he and his wife Jill had taken tests and were negative.

Underlining his sudden advantage in the bitter race, Biden, 77, traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, going ahead with a previously scheduled campaign stop.

While he said he was praying for Trump and his family, Biden delivered a stern rebuke to the man who has repeatedly mocked him for his rigorous use of masks yet now finds himself infected.

“This is not a matter of politics,” said Biden through a blue surgical mask. “It is a bracing reminder for all of us that we must take this virus seriously.”

Pleading for Americans to wear masks, Biden said: “Be patriotic. It’s not about being a tough guy. It’s about doing your part.”

– Campaign grounded –

Trump — who has repeatedly cast doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic — first announced in an overnight tweet that he and First Lady Melania Trump, 50, had tested positive and were going into quarantine.

The shock announcement triggered a freeze on his plans to barnstorm the country in an attempt to catch up with Biden before November 3.

The Trump campaign said all planned events involving the president were either being postponed or going virtual — starting with the cancellation of a rally Friday in Florida, one Saturday in Wisconsin and others in western states like Arizona next week.

Even the second Trump-Biden debate, scheduled for October 15, is now in some doubt.

Despite White House assurances that Trump continued to work, he did not hold the one item left on his public agenda Friday: a phone call to discuss what was billed as “Covid-19 support to vulnerable seniors.”

An official who asked not to be identified said “you shouldn’t read too much into a slight schedule change.” 

The White House would not say if Trump would soon be addressing the nation.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany only told Fox News: “You’ll be seeing and hearing from the president as he moves forward.”

Staff are “having to hold him back a little” and “make sure that he takes it easy,” she said.

– Contact tracing –

News of Trump’s infection came right after one of his closest advisors, Hope Hicks, tested positive — sparking fears of a cluster of cases emanating from the heart of the White House.

Trump met with dozens of people through the week and reportedly went to a fundraiser in New Jersey after it was known Hicks had contracted the virus.

The White House said it was carrying out contact tracing, while Melania Trump’s spokeswoman said the couple’s 14-year-old son Barron had tested negative.

Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all let it be known they had tested negative, and the White House said Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was a negative too.

Technically obese and in his 70s, Trump is in a higher-risk category.

Doctor Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease specialist in the New York area, told AFP Trump had an estimated 20 percent chance of developing severe disease requiring oxygenation.

As the news rattled global stock markets, leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s Boris Johnson wished the president and first lady a speedy recovery — while Russia’ Vladimir Putin predicted Trump’s “vitality, good spirits and optimism” would see him through.


PHOTO: Reuters

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