Ten days after he tested positive for COVID-19, US President Donald Trump addressed supporters at the White House.

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed supporters from a White House balcony on Saturday, his first public appearance since he tested positive for COVID-19 on October 1. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]
U.S. President Donald Trump addressed supporters from a White House balcony on Saturday, his first public appearance since he tested positive for COVID-19 on October 1. [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

Donald Trump held his first public event Saturday since being diagnosed with COVID-19, as the United States president seeks to show the public he is fit to resume campaigning ahead of the November 3 elections.

Trump was not wearing a mask as he addressed a crowd of a few hundred cheering supporters Saturday afternoon from a White House balcony, where he spoke about “law and order” issues in the country.

“I’m honoured to welcome you. We call this a peaceful protest in the White House in support of the incredible men and women of law enforcement and all of the people that work so well with us,” Trump said.

The speech came after White House physician Sean Conley said the president could once again hold public events as of Saturday, 10 days after he tested positive for COVID-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people infected with COVID-19 can see others 10 days after their symptoms first appeared, provided their symptoms are improving and they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of medication.

But public health experts have cautioned against holding large public events where congregants do not wear masks to prevent the potential spread of the novel coronavirus – and some observers questioned Trump’s decision to hold Saturday’s address.

Trump returned to the White House on October 5 after receiving COVID-19 treatment at Walter Reed hospital [Alex Brandon/AP]

The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, on Friday said an event held late last month in the White House Rose Garden for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, was a “superspreader event” that is believed to have infected numerous people.

“I was not surprised to see a super-spreader event given the circumstances. Crowded, congregate setting, not wearing masks. It is not surprising to see an outbreak,” Fauci told The Associated Press news agency.

Maeve Reston, a CNN political reporter, said White House safety protocols did not appear to have changed much since Trump tested positive for COVID-19. An unnamed source told CNN that Saturday’s event attendees would be subject to temperature checks.

“But when it comes to preventing the spread of the disease, the White House still seems to be flouting basic public health precautions, with their Saturday protocol not looking much different from the September 26 Rose Garden event,” Reston wrote.

But Trump on Saturday sought to portray the US as triumphing over the pandemic, saying that COVID-19, which has killed more than 210,000 US citizens to date, “is disappearing” and telling the crowd that he was “feeling great”.

“Through the power of the American spirit, I think more than anything else, science, medicine will eradicate the China virus once and for all. We’ll get rid of it all over the world,” said Trump, using a xenophobic phrase to refer to the novel coronavirus.

Little physical distancing

The crowd gathered on Saturday wore blue shirts in support of Blexit, a conservative group co-founded by right-wing commentator Candace Owens that says it aims to lift up minority communities.

“Every day more Black and Latino Americans are leaving behind left-wing politicians and their failed ideology,” Trump told the crowd.

“They failed for many years and many many decades. Democrats have run nearly every inner city in America. And I mean, for 100 years their policies have delivered nothing but calamity, poverty and trouble.”

Trump supporters were tightly packed into the crowd at the White House on Saturday to hear the US president’s first public address since his COVID-19 diagnosis [Tom Brenner/Reuters]

While the majority of those in attendance wore masks, there was little in the way of physical distancing during the White House event.

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