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Trump, other world leaders in COVID-19 dragnet

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[FILE] US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township, Pennsylvania on September 22, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)


As more than 34 million people have so far been infested with the rampaging coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), leaving at least one million people killed globally, it is becoming more obvious that the pandemic is no respecter of status and wealth, as the U.S President Donald Trump and first lady, Melania Trump, join the ranks of other infected world leaders.

To many, Trump’s positive test result released on Friday might seem a rude shock to him, considering the alarming dramatisation of his continued refusal to take the virus seriously.

During Tuesday night’s debate, moderator Chris Wallace pressed Donald Trump on his cavalier attitude towards COVID-19 safety measures. The president mocked the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden (“Every time you see him, he’s got a mask”), but he also insisted that he was personally careful—everyone around him was tested regularly.

“I have a mask right here. I put a mask on when I think I need it. Tonight, as an example, everybody’s had a test, and you’ve had social distancing and all of the things that you have to. But I wear masks when needed.”

Though the White House spokesperson, Kayleigh McEnany disclosed earlier on Friday that Trump has “mild symptoms,” the President had been taken to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where the White House said he will be monitored for the next few days for COVID-19 symptoms. 

As at the last count, more than seven world leaders—Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson; Brazil President, Jair Bolsonaro; Presidents of Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras and the prime ministers of Armenia and Russia, among others have had a taste of the deadly disease.

While some of them were gravely ill, for instance Johnson, who was hospitalised for a week with the illness, others like Bolsonaro had only mild cases.

For Johnson, who contracted the virus in March, he was hospitalised for three nights in an intensive care unit. Upon his return, he adopted a more somber and cautious tone, a stark contrast to his initial insistence that Britain, the worst hit country in Europe, with more than 56,000 reported deaths, would contain the coronavirus without lockdown measures.

He eventually brought in such restrictions for nearly two months and warned about the risks of resuming regular public life too quickly.His government’s approach since then has been mixed. During the summer, he encouraged people to return to working in offices to help restart the economy, and offered patrons a government-subsidized discount to eat at restaurants and pubs.

With a second wave of the virus now bringing thousands of new cases every day, Britain again introduced tighter restrictions in England last month, including limits on the size of social gatherings across the country and local shutdowns in places with larger outbreaks. The government is also encouraging people to work from home if they are able to.

Like Trump, Bolsonaro was careless about the coronavirus, calling it a “measly cold.” Even as Brazil became one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, he attended political rallies, shook hands with supporters and went around without a face mask.

The approach caused uncertainty and political upheaval, with his sack of the health minister in the spring, only to have the minister’s successor resign one month later over the president’s chaotic response to the pandemic. To date, more than 144,000 people in the country have died from the virus.

Bolsonaro, 65, tested positive in July. Although he complained of aches and a fever, his case appears to have been mild. Experts said his quick recovery reinforced the stance of some supporters — and Bolsonaro — that the threat of the virus could be dismissed.

The Honduras President, Juan Orlando Hernández, tested positive in June along with his wife and two aides, and was treated for pneumonia. He initially vowed to keep working as he displayed mild symptoms, but his health quickly worsened. For days, he remained in a “delicate” situation, doctors said, as he was hospitalised and needed oxygen.

The President of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei tested positive to the virus last month — on the same day that the Central American country reopened its borders and allowed in international flights after a six-month lockdown.

Giammattei, a former surgeon who walks with crutches after suffering sclerosis in his youth, said his health condition made him a “high-risk” patient. “My symptoms are very mild. Up to now, I have body aches. It hurt more yesterday than today, like a bad cold.” Guatemala’s culture minister and four government officials also were infected.

Prime Minister of Russia, Mikhail Mishustin, who assumed office in January, was hospitalised after testing positive for the coronavirus in April. Russia initially boasted a low mortality rate, but the country’s figure has since spiked. The country’s death toll has included hundreds of health care workers.

The reigning prince of Monaco, Prince Albert, 62, was apparently the first head of state to test positive for the coronavirus when the diagnosis was disclosed on March 19. The palace later reported that he emerged from a 14-day period of self-isolation “in good health.”

Buckingham Palace announced on March 25 that the prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and the heir to the British throne, had contracted the coronavirus. After isolating himself for seven days at Birkhall, his residence in Scotland, Charles re-emerged publicly, via a video link, to dedicate a new field hospital for coronavirus patients.

The diagnosis had raised fears about the health of his mother, now 94, whom Charles had met with on March 12, only a day before his medical advisers assessed that he might have been infected. By the time her son’s diagnosis was disclosed, the Queen had sequestered herself at Windsor Castle and the palace reported her to be in good health.

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, went into self-isolation in June after he and close family members tested positive for the coronavirus. A week later and after displaying no symptoms, he said he had tested negative.
The Armenian authorities eased a week long lockdown in May but acknowledged that they had failed to enforce the measures thoroughly and that there had been widespread quarantine violations.

The President of Bolovia, Ms Jeanine Añez, who took office as Bolivia’s caretaker leader in January after the ouster of President Evo Morales, tested positive in July. She remained in self-isolation for 14 days, and many government officials also tested positive, including the health minister. The president returned to office late July.

Vice President of Gambia, Isatou Touray contracted the virus, leading President Adama Barrow to self-isolate. Several Gambian officials tested positive for the coronavirus in August, including Mambury Njie, the finance minister; Fafa Sanyang, the petroleum and energy minister; and Amie Fabureh, the agriculture minister.

In Iran, several government leaders were victims of the disease. They include President Hassan Rouhani’s deputy for women’s affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, Ms. Ebtekar, the highest-ranking woman in the country’s government, later said she had recovered. The speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, tested positive in April, and several high-ranking clerics have died of the virus.


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