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Just a week after his release from the hospital, US President Donald Trump returned to the campaign trail on Monday (local time) for the first time since contracting the coronavirus.
After seemingly fighting off the virus, Mr Trump is now fighting for his political future as he tries to stage a late comeback in the election’s final stretch.
The president, whose doctor said on Monday for the first time that he had received a negative test for Covid-19, faces a stubborn deficit in national and battleground state polling.
This morning he headed to the key swing state of Florida where he was animated and spoke loudly, without any sign of the virus or lingering frailty.
In front of a large crowd, Mr Trump went through the usual hits of touting stock market highs and chiding his opponent for cognitive decline saying leaders like Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un were sharper than his opponent Joe Biden, before moving to the elephant in the room.
The US president said he felt powerful after overcoming the novel coronavirus.
“I went through it ... Now they say I’m immune. I feel so powerful,” he told the crowd.
“I’ll walk in there and kiss everyone in the audience … I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful woman. I’ll kiss everyone.”
Mr Trump said doctors tell him that it’s unclear if immunity from Covid-19 will last as little as four months or indefinitely but continued to talk up his physical state.
“I’m very young, I’m in great shape ... perfect shape.
“These people are the sickest of them all,” he said, pointing to the media section, eliciting boos from the audience.
“It does give you a good feeling to beat something,” Mr Trump said of his Covid-19 diagnosis.
According to state data, Florida’s positivity rate continues to hover around 5 per cent. To date, the state has had more than 730,000 known infections and more than 15,400 Covid-19 deaths.
Despite the president and several members of his team testing positive in the last fortnight, there was little to no concern for social distancing at the packed outdoor event.
‘I said it’: Trump slams virus lockdowns
The president, who has sought to play down the severity of the virus, admitted he has lost friends to the pandemic but said his anti-lockdown stance has been proved right, pointing to pronouncements made by a top World Health Organisation this week about lockdowns.
WHO Director General Dr David Nabarro told world leaders the organisation doesn’t advocate lockdown, after previously cautioning that countries should be careful how quickly they reopen.
“They admitted that Donald Trump is right, the lockdowns are doing tremendous damage in these Democratic states where they have locked everything down,” the president told the crowd.
“I said it in the beginning, the cure can not be worse than the disease.”
Mr Trump said those who are worried can stay home while others should feel free to go about their life without concern.
Florida was the first stop in a busy week that will include events in other key states in Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
The robust schedule underscores the work Mr Trump needs to do as he tries to win over voters just three weeks before Election Day.
With the secrecy around his treatment in recent weeks, the Florida event comes amid still-unanswered questions about the impact so much travel so soon could have on the 74-year-old president’s health. The progression of COVID-19 is often unpredictable, and there can be long-term complications which appears weeks after diagnosis.
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