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Donald Trump offered to kiss members of the audience and claimed he was immune to Covid-19 during a rally in Florida that marked the US president’s return to the campaign trail just 10 days after he was hospitalised with the virus.

“They say I’m immune. I feel so powerful . . . I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women,” Mr Trump said on Monday night in front of a cheering crowd, many of whom were not wearing masks or practising social distancing.

Mr Trump is hoping that he can convince the American public he is healthy and has recovered from the virus during a series of rallies this week at a time when he trails Democratic rival Joe Biden in the polls with just 22 days until the election.

The president, 74, addressed the rally at Orlando Sanford airport for an hour and departed the stage dancing to the lyrics from “YMCA” by the Village People — “young man, there’s no need to feel down, I said, young man, pick yourself off the ground”.

Mr Trump also mocked Mr Biden’s decision to hold socially-distanced campaign events, claiming the Democratic challenger had only imposed limits on the size of audiences because he could not draw a crowd.

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The president took to the stage hours after Anthony Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Mr Trump was “asking for trouble” by holding several large rallies given that coronavirus was surging in many states.

More than 200,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, a number that could rise significantly because of an increase in new cases and the prospect of a “winter wave” of infections, according to public health experts.

Dr Fauci said: “We’ve seen that when you have situations of congregate settings where there are a lot of people without masks, the data speak for themselves. Now is . . . a worse time to do that, because when you look at what’s going on in the US, it’s really very troublesome.”

Many audience members at the rally were not wearing masks, including Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, who was pictured high-fiving attendees as they waited in line for the event.

Mr Trump used the rally to cast himself as the defender of the American dream against the threat of a “socialist nightmare”. In a message designed to appeal to Florida’s Latino voters, he claimed a Biden administration would turn the US into communist Cuba or socialist Venezuela.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Biden told a crowd in Ohio that Mr Trump’s personal conduct since his diagnosis had been “reckless” and “unconscionable”, and that the way the president had responded to his infection proved “he doesn’t know what he’s doing”.

Shortly before Mr Trump addressed the Florida rally, his doctor said he had tested negative for coronavirus on consecutive days, although the physician cited results from a rapid test that is less reliable than the “gold standard”.

“He has tested negative, on consecutive days, using the Abbott BinaxNow antigen card,” Sean Conley, White House physician, wrote in a memo.

The Abbott test is a 15-minute rapid nasal swab test — which produces less reliable results than molecular testing — that should not be used to give the all-clear to a patient in Mr Trump’s circumstances, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Although the Abbott test has been authorised for emergency use by the FDA, the agency has warned it has “a higher chance of missing an active infection” than molecular polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests.

“Negative results do not rule out Sars-Cov-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions,” the FDA said of the Abbott test in August.

The agency also recommends that if the Abbot test is used after seven days from the onset of symptoms, the result should be confirmed by a PCR test. Mr Trump first became symptomatic at least 11 days ago.

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Dr Conley did not say whether Mr Trump had been tested using the PCR method, although he said the Abbott test was one of a range of indicators he had relied on when determining the president was virus-free.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that patients who exhibit severe symptoms such as Mr Trump should isolate for at least 10 and possibly “up to 20” days following the onset of symptoms.

Dr Conley said in his Monday statement that he had concluded Mr Trump was “not infectious to others”, although he did not repeat the president’s unfounded claim that he is immune to the disease.

Mr Trump’s Florida rally was the first of several planned this week, with events scheduled in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Iowa on Wednesday and North Carolina on Thursday.

Mr Trump’s infection derailed his campaign’s efforts to draw a line under his handling of coronavirus, which has led to millions of job losses. He has repeatedly pushed for a rapid emergence from lockdown, citing the damage done to the economy.

Line chart showing how Trump and Biden are doing in the US national polls



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