‘Fist bumps and thumbs-ups’ and disregard for the grief of the families of 210,000 dead Americans

It can have been no coincidence that it was timed to take place when all three US evening newscasts were on the air.

Ever the showman, Donald Trump once again guaranteed himself maximum coverage.

But his return from the Walter Reed Military Medical Centre to the White House was a moment that has caused alarm among America’s medical establishment and beyond.

The president is symptomatic and contagious with COVID-19. The guidance for anyone in that situation is to isolate.

Trump instead dragged his whole entourage on a journey across the American capital.

The gestures were those of the sort of strongman leader Trump adores – the fist bumps and thumbs-ups. And, after climbing the steps to the White House balcony, he took off his mask.

As he saluted and posed for pictures in a prolonged photo-op, the message was clear: Trump sees himself as a survivor, victorious over a deadly virus and ready to get back to work. He had even re-tweeted an article calling him an “invincible hero”.

To most outsiders, it was astonishingly reckless.

This is a man who, even his own doctors recognise, is “not out of the woods”. He is lucky to be receiving the best medical care in the world and an unprecedented cocktail of drugs.

And he is shedding the virus with every breath, potentially posing a risk to everyone who comes near. You could almost hear a nation gasp as a White House photographer moved in for a close-up.

The White House insists physical access to the president will be limited and PPE will be worn near him but there will undoubtedly be risk to the Secret Service personnel, household staff and administration officials who serve him.

Remember this is a White House already in a state of panic, with a growing number of staff testing positive and many more staying away for fear of contracting it.

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Even now it is still not entirely clear when the president himself first became ill and contagious and, consequently, just how many people have been exposed to risk.

But then this is a president willing to show a remarkable disregard for the grief of the families of 210,000 dead Americans, tweeting that no-one “should be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life”. Like it is a choice.

His focus is already, according to the White House, on getting back to the campaign trail and the next scheduled debate with Joe Biden in ten days.

No price, it seems, is too high for Donald Trump in his quest for re-election.

:: You can watch the Vice Presidential Debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris on Thursday at 2am live on Sky News and Sky News online

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