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‘Don’t be afraid of Covid’: Trump returns to White House, removes mask

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President Donald Trump checked out of hospital on Monday after four days of emergency treatment for Covid-19, pulling off his mask the moment he reached the White House and vowing to quickly get back on the campaign trail.

Shortly beforehand, Trump had tweeted that Americans, who have lost nearly 210,000 people to the virus, have nothing to fear.

A series of made-for-TV moments allowed Trump to squeeze the maximum from his medical discharge, starting by exiting alone from the large gold-colored front doors of the Walter Reed military hospital just outside Washington.

Live on television, he then walked in a mask to a limousine, giving the thumb’s up, before boarding the nearby Marine One helicopter for the quick flight to the White House — which he left on Friday after falling ill.

Landing, he walked up the steps onto the South Portico’s stately balcony and demonstratively removed his mask, saluting the departing Marine One.

With less than a month until November 3 election day, polls show Trump behind Democrat Joe Biden and left scrambling even harder by his hospitalization to catch up.

The return to the White House was minutely stage managed to show he is physically fit, while a series of striking tweets demonstrated Trump’s coming angle of political attack — that he personally beat Covid and will now lead the country to its own comeback.

“Will be back on the Campaign Trail soon!!!” he said in one tweet.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he said in another, claiming to be feeling rejuvenated after his illness.

But the 74-year-old Republican’s display of bravado came the same day as his own chief spokeswoman tested positive for the virus — the latest in an outbreak raging within the White House.

And despite his claims to be in good health again, a combination of White House secrecy, conflicting information from officials and the viral spread among his own circle, damaged his credibility.

In a briefing from the hospital, presidential physician Sean Conley said Trump is “back” but also said he would not be “entirely out of the woods” for another week.

It wasn’t clear how free Trump will be to move about in the White House’s crowded corridors and small office spaces. The facility, however, has a medical team of its own which will monitor the president in case of relapse.

Sickness around Trump

Despite Trump’s characteristic claim that Covid-19 should not be of major concern, polls show it is a huge worry for Americans. His widely panned handling of the crisis this year is also reckoned to be the main reason Biden, 77, is surging in polls.

The United States has the biggest reported toll of any country in the global pandemic.

Illustrating the divide between the reality described by health experts and the Trump White House’s defiance, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany became the latest to announce a positive test result on Monday.

Other positive cases close to Trump now include his wife Melania, his close aide Hope Hicks, his campaign manager Bill Stepien, two of McEnany’s assistants according to US media, and more than half a dozen others from the president’s circle both inside and outside the White House.

Trump singlehandedly ‘defeats’ Covid?

Beset by revelations that he avoids paying almost any income tax and a slew of other scandals, Trump was already behind Biden when he fell ill.

But the biggest liability in his scramble for a second term was always his handling of the pandemic.

For months, Trump has given the appearance of trying to wish away the catastrophe and get back to his reelection narrative of a strong economy.

Trump now looks poised to try and claim that in getting quickly out of hospital he has personally vanquished the virus — and will go on to do the same for the rest of the country.

An unofficial White House themed gift shop announced Monday it will sell a commemorative coin titled “President Donald J. Trump Defeats COVID” for $100.

And in the New York Post, a supportive columnist described Trump as an “invincible hero, who not only survived every dirty trick the Democrats threw at him, but the Chinese virus as well.”

Trump retweeted the comments.

Biden gets advantage

For all of Trump’s determination to reassert himself, he has already lost several precious days of a campaign that revolves heavily around his large-scale rallies and image of personal strength.

On the day he announced his positive test he had been due to hold a rally in Florida. The next day he was to have flown to another important battleground, Wisconsin, ignoring the fact he was to gather crowds in one of the worst coronavirus hotspots in the country.

Biden meanwhile has maintained his slow-but-steady campaign which has always emphasized health precautions — a pared-back style that Trump calls weakness and mocked as recently as last week. The Democrat was in Florida on Monday.

The upheaval has led to unusual interest in this Wednesday’s televised debate between the vice presidential candidates — Republican Mike Pence and Biden’s pick, Kamala Harris — who will be separated by a plexiglass barrier for the event.

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Amid backlash, Union Minister assures country will be given free COVID vaccine

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Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Sunday said that all people of the country will be given free COVID vaccine, amidst the demand by opposition parties in the country for it and not only in poll-bound Bihar as announced by the BJP.

The BJP announcement of free COVID vaccine for Bihar, where assembly polls begin this week, had kicked up a controversy with the opposition parties tearing into the NDA government alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political reasons.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the announcement was in order as it was an election manifesto announcement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all people will be provided free of cost vaccines. An estimated ₹ 500 odd will be spent on vaccination of each person, Mr Sarangi told reporters after addressing a campaign meeting for the November 3 assembly by-poll in Balasore.

PM Modi had in a televised adddress to the nation on October 20 said that Indian scientists are in the process of developing several vaccines that are at different stages of clinical trials and the results seem encouraging.

Mr Sarangi, the union minister of state for animal husbandry, dairy, fisheries and micro, small and medium enterprises spoke in reply to question raised by Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, RP Swain.

Mr Swain had earlier in the day sought clarification from Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarangi, the two union ministers from Odisha questioning them for their silence on their party BJP’s stand on free COVID-19 vaccination for the people of the state along the lines of the one being promised in Bihar.

The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puduchchery have already announced free of cost COVID vaccines for the people of their states, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free vaccine for all citizens across the country.

Mr Swain had tweeted “I am asking questions to two Odisha union ministers from Balasore soil to clarify as to why the people of the state will not get free of cost COVID vaccine. The union ministers should clarify BJPs stand on the corona vaccination in Odisha.”

On the state governments steps for vaccination, Mr Swain said it has signed an agreement with a vaccine manufacturer and is committed to extend the facility to all people of the state.

He, however, did not say whether the state government will provide the vaccine to the people free of cost.

BJP deputy leader in Odisha Assembly Bishnu Charan Sethi said the Centre has been supporting Odisha fully during the pandemic and has granted ₹ 22,000 crore for the purpose.

“But large scale lapses have been detected in the utilisation of the fund,” he alleged.

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‘Looking forward to collaborate closely with India’: US ahead of 2+2 dialogue

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The third edition of the 2+2 dialogue between India and USA is set to begin as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper are on their way to New Delhi.

Ahead of the important talks, the US State Department said the country welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power.

“As outlined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power. The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council,” the US said, reported NDTV.

“Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations,” Mike Pompeo tweeted last night.

The top US leaders will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold discussions with other government and business leaders on ways to advance the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, the State Department said.

US said that the subjects to be covered included regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade.

“We have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement – the Exchange and Cooperation Agreement or BECA,” senior officials of the Trump administration said last week in an online news briefing.

“This agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces. We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign defence ministries and that figures prominently in what we are trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space,” they added.

The relations between US and India have been strengthening in last few months as the Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise next month.

Quadrilateral grouping, which experts say is to be mirroring NATO, has already been criticized by China many times.

In another major development in direction of strengthening the ties, New Delhi and Washington are also stepping up efforts to conclude the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting on October 26-27.

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‘CM stayed indoor when migrants walked home; steps out only to get votes’: Tejashwi Yadav

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RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav launched scathing attacks on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during an election rally in the state’s Nawada district on Friday.

The attack was Covid-specific coming hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the Bihar CM for tackling the century’s major health crisis.

He criticized Kumar for staying put at home for more than four months because of the Covid threat and only coming out to ask for votes.

“Nitish Kumar stayed inside the CM house for 144 days. But now he is out of his house. Why? Tab bhi corona tha, ab bhi corona hai. But now he wants your vote, so he has to step out,” he said.

In the month of June when migrant crisis surfaced in the country and most migrants were from Bihar itself, Nitish Kumar had faced widespread criticism over his decision to remain indoors and avoid public interaction.

In early June, after spending 84 days inside, he finally stepped out to drive 20 meters to the official secretariat.

Back then also, Tejaswi Yadav had mocked him in a tweet, telling him “if you are afraid (to step outside), I will go along with you”.

“Did Nitish Kumar give you jobs in 15 years, did he eradicate poverty? What happened to the promised government jobs? What happened to the factories?” Yadav asked.

“I welcome Modiji to Bihar, now tell us what happened to the Bihar package?” he asked.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday at his first rally in Bihar for the election praised Chief Minister Nitish Kumar government for his “quick response” to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

“If Bihar’s Nitish Kumar government had not acted fast, there would have been many more coronavirus deaths and unimaginable mayhem,” PM said.

“But today Bihar, having battled Covid, is now celebrating the festival of democracy,” PM said.

“But today Bihar, having battled Covid, is now celebrating the festival of democracy,” he said.

PM was addressing a joint rally in Sasaram with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

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