As news emerged that US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania had tested positive for coronavirus, the story shot to the top of every news agenda worldwide.
It’s just 32 days until Americans cast their votes in the race for the White House – and this is a seismic development.
World leaders were quick to send the Trumps their well-wishes, with India’s Twitter-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi among the first.
“Wishing my friend @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS a quick recovery and good health,” he wrote.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “Like millions of Israelis, Sara and I are thinking of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump and wish our friends a full and speedy recovery.”
Russia’s Vladimir Putin sent a message by telegraph, according to the Interfax News Agency, writing: “I am certain that your inherent vitality, good spirits and optimism will help you cope with this dangerous virus.”
In much international media, however, the news was accompanied by criticism of what was said to be the US president’s “botched” response to the coronavirus pandemic, and his “open scepticism” over the use of face masks and social distancing.
German media seemed somewhat unsurprised. “Trump usually does not wear a mask in public”, wrote the centre-right Die Welt, while the centrist Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung pointed out that the pandemic did not deter him from making numerous major election campaign appearances.
Media in France echoed the sentiment that Mr Trump undermined his own health by underestimating the virus. “After months of catastrophic handling of the pandemic in the USA, after months of lies and contradictory messages to his supporters… Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19,” wrote Libération.
Iran’s international-facing English-language Press TV observed that Trump “has been somewhat cavalier” about the Covid-19 threat, adding that “it was only a matter of time” before the US president caught the virus.
An anchor on Iranian state television broke the news “with an unflattering image of the US president surrounded by what appeared to be giant coronaviruses”, the Associated Press reports.
Elsewhere, questions have been asked about what the news could actually mean for the US presidential election. The India Today website anticipated that Trump’s quarantine would bring his election campaign to a standstill, stating: “The [presidential] debates and the entire Republican campaign now comes under a shadow.”
The website quoted predictions by analysts that Trump may hope to get sympathy votes now that he has tested positive himself. But others, like Hindi-language daily the Navbharat Times, predicted that “Trump’s diagnosis and his attitude towards the pandemic will harm him in the election.”
Pakistan’s Geo News carried an online report reading: “The future of Trump’s re-election campaign is in doldrums due to his illness and inability to address the rallies before the crucial November 3 vote.”
“The president, who is tested regularly for Covid-19, has kept up a rigorous travel schedule across the country in recent weeks, holding rallies with thousands of people in the run-up to the November 3 election, despite warnings from public health professionals against having events with large crowds.”
In China, which Mr Trump has repeatedly blamed for the spread of the coronavirus, news of his illness was one of the most searched topics on Weibo, the popular (if heavily censored) social media app.
The editor of the state-owned Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, tweeted in English: “President Trump and the First Lady have paid the price for his gamble to play down the Covid-19.”
Domestically, some of Mr Trump’s favoured outlets took a gentler tone. “Get through this together!” reads a headline on Fox News’s website, where the story is leading the news.
“Trump, first lady send messages of calm, resilience from White House after testing positive for Covid,” it adds.
The site’s sympathetic coverage includes an article on people it calls “a number of the president’s fiercest critics”, sending their best wishes for his recovery. The network’s medical expert Marc Siegel said his sources had described the couple as “absolutely asymptomatic”.
Elsewhere in the US press, the Wall Street Journal noted a fall in US stock futures and said “the diagnosis throws up a host of uncertainties for markets to process”, including the question “will the US government be able to function normally?”
The Washington Post has dropped its paywall to allow people to read its live updates on the situation.
Politico described Mr Trump as “the world’s highest-profile patient of a disease that has killed more than one million people”.
“A person familiar with the situation said the president was not showing symptoms yet on Thursday,” the site reported. “Still, Vice-President Mike Pence may need to step in for some tasks if Trump is confined to the White House grounds,” it quoted the source as saying.
On that score, there is some good news for the Trump administration: Mr Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have both tested negative.
With reporting by BBC Monitoring
Source:BBC News – US & Canada