The World Health Organisation (WHO) has wished US President Donald Trump well after his positive Covid-19 diagnosis, but refused to comment on whether he may have brought it upon himself by refusing to wear a mask.
Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO’s Emergencies Programme, restated the basic safety measures which can be used to help cut risk including washing your hands, staying a safe distance from other individuals, avoiding crowded spaces, wearing a mask both to protect others and yourself in situations where you cannot physically distance or where there is a risk.
Mr Trump has often refused to wear a face mask and mocked those who do.
Dr Ryan told a WHO press conference: “Doing all of that to protect yourself and others is the best way to protect society. Our advice doesn’t change.
“We will not comment on the specific management measures or specific behaviour of an individual.
“We are a community. We need to get through this together. This is not the time to turn on each other.”
President Trump, 74, is showing mild symptoms of coronavirus after he and first lady Melania, 50, tested positive.
He announced his diagnosis in a tweet in the early hours of Friday, following a positive test from one of his closest aides, Hope Hicks.
The world saw a lively presidential election debate earlier this week in which Mr Trump constantly raised his voice and interrupted Democratic candidate Joe Biden. It led to a series of chaotic exchanges in which both men talked over each other.
Dr Ryan said he could not comment on whether Mr Trump’s behaviour had put Mr Biden at risk.
He pointed out that the WHO has no idea of the nature of the confirmation of the diagnosis, the timing of the diagnosis, viral counts, distances or anything else.
Dr Ryan said: “We absolutely trust the US public health authorities to make the appropriate decision and advise those individuals on whether they may be at risk.”
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opened the press conference with good wishes to the Trumps, saying: “I want to start today by wishing them both a full and swift recovery. Or prayers are with them.”
Mr Trump has formally moved to withdraw the US from the WHO.
The president had made his intentions clear in late May, accusing the body of being under China’s control in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite calls from the EU and others, he said he would pull out of the UN agency and redirect funds elsewhere.
Dr Ryan said the world needs action, investment and solutions to tackle the global pandemic.
He said: “I hope that everybody can reflect right now – as we send our best wishes to the President and his spouse – that we can redouble our efforts, find the right investments and get this job done.”
He noted that huge innovations are going into developing much-need vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
He added: “There is a barrier between us and that achievement – it is a relatively small amount of money when we think about what has been spent and what has been drained from our collective pocketbooks from the global economy.”
Saying that he wanted to pass on a “message of hope”, Dr Tedros said he had had “an inspiring conversation with Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised nearly £40 million for the United Kingdom’s national health service with a charity walk”.
Dr Tedros did not give further details of his conversation with the 100-year-old fundraising hero on Thursday – which was the International Day of Older Persons.