Covid-19 carrier Donald Trump took off his mask as he returned to the White House tonight, apparently putting several members of staff at risk of infection.
The President touched down on the South Lawn in Marine One after checking out of Walter Reed military hospital.
In a carefully staged series of events, Trump had left the hospital on foot, and through the front door.
On his arrival at the White House, he climbed the exterior steps to the first floor balcony.
In a final show of reckless defiance, the President removed his mask.
He stood on the balcony, visibly gasping for air, as he watched Marine One take off.
At one point he appeared to instruct a photographer to come up to the balcony, in order to get a better photograph.
Without putting his mask on, he then walked into the Blue Room, where several members of staff had been seen moving around inside.
He then re-emerged, apparently to ‘reshoot’ the video footage of his entrance to ensure he liked the images.
The stunt was timed to coincide with US TV news bulletins.
Before departing the Walter Reed Medical Centre, he tweeted: “I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Cente. Feeling really good. Don’t be afraid of Covid.
“Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs and knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago.”
Earlier today two members of the White House housekeeping staff tested positive for Covid-19.
The severity of Trump’s illness has been the subject of intense speculation in the past three days, with some medical experts noting that, as an overweight, elderly man, he was in a category more likely to develop severe complications or die from the disease.
Doctors also have been treating him with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases.
Trump has frequently downplayed the threat of the pandemic, which has infected 7.4 million people in the United States and killed more than 209,000. In recent days, he released a series of videos to reassure the public he is recovering from COVID-19.