Saturday, 22 January 2022


Andrew Gift, a Nigerian journalist working with BBC has lamented how his wife, Grace died from breast cancer, just after 13 months of marriage.

She died not because there were no efforts to give her medicare, but because of her belief in religious leaders such as TB Joshua, who preach faith healing.

Gift’s story was published Sunday by BBC.

Read the heart rending story:

My journey to widowerhood began three years ago in an oncologist’s office in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Had my wife, Grace, followed the doctor’s advice rather than seek the help of religious healers, I believe that she would have survived breast cancer and still be with me and our three-year-old daughter.

She had gone for tests on a large lump on her breast and the doctor said they had revealed that there was an “invasive carcinoma”.

I did not understand what this meant and he explained that “the tumour is cancerous and we need to begin the process of managing it immediately to avoid a spread”.

Grace looked fearful and weak, and I remember taking our baby – who was then just one month old – out of her arms as I was afraid of what she might do next.

Andrew and Grace Gift

There was a solution
But the specialist assured us that with treatment she would survive. He advised a course of chemotherapy and then possibly a mastectomy, or surgery to remove her breasts.

Through the fog of that day I tried to hold on to that idea that a solution was possible and that I would still have a life with Grace, who I had only started dating just over a year before.

We first met in the unromantic setting of a hectic bus terminus in Abuja. She was having a row with a bus conductor who had overcharged her for her luggage and I went over to calm the situation. We ended up chatting on the journey and then exchanging numbers.

I was 33 at the time and feeling very lonely. As the eldest son, I was constantly being reminded that where I come from in eastern Nigeria, the tradition is to marry young and my junior siblings had already beaten me to it.

READ ALSO Hair straighteners linked with breast cancer

Nevertheless, I waited a few months before I got back in touch with Grace and discovered we lived close to each other. We became very close friends and then agreed to marry.

But 13 months on from our wedding came the cancer diagnosis.

There is no free cancer treatment here and Grace’s medical insurance would not cover the costs, so I had to make plans to borrow the money.

In total the bill would come to 600,000 naira ($1,500; £1,200) and I got a loan to pay for the first round of treatment.

My worst ever decision
But on my way to the pharmacy to buy the first set of chemotherapy drugs, Grace called to tell me that she was not going to proceed. Rather she had faith that God would heal her.

She told me that the chemotherapy would kill the healthy cells in the body as well as the cancerous ones, and she preferred to put her trust in religion. It is true that the drugs can damage healthy cells, but experts say this damage does not usually last.

I tried to convince Grace to change her mind, but it was made up and I felt compelled to agree to seek alternative solutions – the worst decision I ever made.

Most Nigerians are very religious and when it comes to health issues many prefer to seek help from places of worship rather than the hospital.

Grace’s decision to refuse chemotherapy was informed by the advice she received from friends and family. Many here believe that it can kill you and Grace got scared.

She did agree to have an operation to remove the tumour but this was a temporary solution as the cancer returned in a very aggressive manner.

Most of these healers took money and promised us miracles. Some told her that the day she visits a hospital would be the day that she would die”

READ ALSO Hair straighteners linked with breast cancer

My wife was a very strong woman and she bore the pain for two years without seeing a doctor.

We did however visit churches and prayer centres, including that of the famous prophet TB Joshua, yet no solution came.

Most of these healers took money and promised us miracles. Some told her that the day she visits a hospital would be the day that she would die.

We also explored traditional treatments, recommended by friends and relations.

Not allowed to mention the cancer

We prayed together and did regular exercise, she took herbs and fruits, and denied herself some other foods and yet the pain did not end.

I tried to convince to talk to a doctor, but she refused. Even when she went to get treated for malaria in the hospital, she insisted that I did not mention the cancer.

By June last year, it was obvious that she was losing weight and was becoming weaker.

Then in July, her health had deteriorated so much that I had no option other than to take her to hospital as she was struggling to breathe and unable to stand up.

The first two hospitals where I tried to get her admitted would not take her on, but a third one agreed to manage her case.

Tests confirmed that the cancer had spread, including to the second breast, her lungs and her bones. And the doctor told me that there was no treatment that could save her.

Chemotherapy was recommended to manage the situation and Grace accepted this. But between July and November she was in and out of hospital on a regular basis.

At times, I lived in my car that was parked in the hospital grounds. When I woke up early in the morning, I would wash in a place hidden from view and then dress and go to work from there.

At that point, although she was distraught herself, Grace’s mother gave me a lot of support.

READ ALSO Hair straighteners linked with breast cancer

Often when I was working, the doctors would call to tell me that Grace was having a seizure and I would have to rush to the hospital.

I fell into debt in order to pay for the hospital bills, but I wanted to make sure that money was never going to be a reason for poor medical treatment.

I could tell that our daughter, Princess Gold MmesomaChukwu, who was staying at a friend’s house, was also suffering and she missed the warmth of her mother’s embrace.

I did take her to the hospital once, but I could tell that she was very disturbed and she was not sure how to react to the situation.

Finally, in November Grace’s painful headaches indicated that the cancer had spread to her brain and she went into a coma and never woke up.

She died at the age of 33.

Tasting the sweetness of marriage and then losing it like this was very painful.

I am now lonely, depressed and find it hard to concentrate. There are tears every day.

I started a Facebook page in Grace’s memory and to try and raise awareness about cancer, as it seemed to me that many in Nigeria did not know much about it.

People need to be better informed about the best means of managing the disease and more money needs to be spent on getting this message across to ordinary people.

I still hear stories, including that of the wife of a friend of mine, of people refusing chemotherapy in favour of religious healing.

Yes, religion and our traditions still have a very big role to play in our lives, but that should not come at the cost of losing a love one.

By Agency Reporter

Pfizer Inc and its partner BioNTech on Monday said their experimental vaccine has proven more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial data from a large study.

The announcement represents a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed over 1.2 million people, roiled the world’s economy and upended daily life.

Pfizer and the German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek U.S. emergency use authorisation later this month.

If authorised, the number of vaccine doses will initially be limited.

Many questions also remain including how long the vaccine will provide protection.

However the news provides hope that other vaccines in development against the novel coronavirus may also prove effective.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”

Pfizer expects to seek broad U.S. emergency use authorisation of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85. To do so, it will need to have collected two months of safety data on around half of the study’s roughly 44,000 participants, expected in late November.

“I’m near ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, said in an interview.

“This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”

Pfizer said the interim analysis was conducted after 94 participants in the trial developed COVID-19, examining how many of them received the vaccine versus a placebo.

The company did not break down exactly how many of those who fell ill received the vaccine.

Still, over 90% effectiveness implies that no more than 8 of the 94 people who caught COVID-19 had been given the vaccine, which was administered in two shots about three weeks apart.

The efficacy rate is well above the 50% effectiveness required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.

To confirm its efficacy rate, Pfizer said it will continue the trial until there are 164 COVID-19 cases among participants.

Given the recent spike in U.S. infection rates, that number could be reached by early December, Gruber said.

The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.

Pfizer and BioNTech have a $1.95 billion contract with the U.S. government to deliver 100 million vaccine doses beginning this year.

They have also reached supply agreements with the European Union, the UK, Canada and Japan.

To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would be effective. They now expect to produce up to 50 million doses or enough vaccine to protect 25 million people this year.

Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021.

The global race for a vaccine has seen wealthier countries forge multibillion-dollar supply deals with drugmakers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson Inc, raising questions over when middle income and poorer nations will get access to inoculations.

The U.S. quest for a vaccine has been the Trump administration’s central response to the pandemic.

The United States has the world’s highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths with more than 10 million infections and more than 237,000 fatalities.

President Donald Trump repeatedly assured the public that his administration would likely identify a successful vaccine in time for the presidential election, held last Tuesday.

On Saturday, Democratic rival Joe Biden was declared the winner.

Reported by Reuters/NAN

Sunday, 08 November 2020 18:52

Joe Biden to Americans: Time to heal, unify

In his first speech after winning the US presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden declared in Wilmington, Delaware, it was “time to heal”

“The people of this nation have spoken. They have delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory for we, the people. We’ve won with the most votes ever cast on a presidential ticket in the history of the nation — 74 million,” Biden told cheering supporters in a parking lot during his victory speech.

Biden’s victory in the battleground state of Pennsylvania put him over the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes he needed to clinch the presidency, ending four days of nail-biting suspense and sending his supporters into the streets of major cities in celebration.

Biden and Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris delivers her speech

He had since won Nevada and Arizona to increase his electoral college votes to 290, according to AP.

Trump, who is yet to concede defeat, has 214.

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify,” Biden said, then addressed Trump’s supporters directly.

“Now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” he said. “This is the time to heal in America.”

Biden commented on celebrations taking place across the country.

“What I must admit has surprised me, tonight we’re seeing all over this nation, all cities in all parts of the country, indeed across the world, an outpouring of joy, of hope of renewed faith in tomorrow, bring a better day. And I’m humbled by the trust and confidence you’ve placed in me,” Biden said.

The president-elect acknowledged that bringing the nation together, given all Americans have been through, will be a daunting and unprecedented challenge.

READ ALSO Bad poll for Trump: Pandemic not law and order the main issue in US

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify. Who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States,” Biden said.

(watch the speech courtesy of

“I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, to make America respected around the world again, and to unite us here at home.”

“It’s the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for that vision. And now, the work of making that vision is real, it’s a task — the task of our time,” he continued.

Biden thanked the coalition his campaign put together to bring him to this moment, calling it the broadest and most diverse movement in history, and paid special acknowledgement to the demographic that has historically led him to victory.

“Especially in those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” Biden said, pounding his first on the lectern. “You always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

Biden directly addressed President Trump only once and indirectly in his remarks, noting he, too, had lost several times before making history in 2020.

“For all those of you who voted President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself, but now let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said. “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”

Biden also announced his plans to announce on Monday a team of scientists to deal with the pandemic, which has killed close to 240,000 Americans.

He was introduced to the stage by his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve as vice president, the country’s No. 2 office.

“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country, and select a woman as his vice president,” Harris said.

Harris, 56, had begun her speech by paying a tribute to the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, giving a nod to those who paved the way for a more representative democracy.

“Congressman John Lewis before his passing wrote:

‘Democracy is not a state, it is an act.’ And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it,” Harris said.

“And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election — with the very soul of America at stake and the world watching — you ushered in a new day for America.”

She went on to thank the voters, organizers, poll workers and activists who she said delivered a clear message in what became a referendum election, choosing, she said, “hope and unity, decency, science, and yes, truth!”

“You chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. And Joe is a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand. A person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose that will help us as a nation reclaim our own sense of purpose,” Harris said.

The daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, Harris also thanked her late mother and the generations of women before her — “including the black women who are often, too often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”

“When she came here from India at the age of 19, she maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment,” Harris spoke of her mother, an Indian immigrant.

“But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible, and so I am thinking about her and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women, who throughout our nation’s history, who paved the way to tonight, women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all.”

She gave credit to Biden for helping her ascend to the second highest office of the nation and said she hopes her place on the stage will inspire others to follow.

“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country and select a woman as his vice president,” Harris said.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” she added.

*Reports relied on ABC News

Democrat Joe Biden has won the White House, US media said Saturday, defeating Donald Trump and ending a presidency that convulsed American politics, shocked the world and left the United States more divided than at any time in decades.

CNN, NBC News and CBS News called the race in Biden’s favor just before 11:30 am (1630 GMT) as an insurmountable lead in Pennsylvania took the 77-year-old over the top in the state-by-state count that decides the presidency.

Trump had no immediate reaction to the announcement, but as Biden’s lead grew during vote counts since Tuesday’s election, the Republican president lashed out with unsubstantiated claims of fraud and claimed, falsely, that he had won.

Earlier Saturday, as he headed to his golf course in Virginia, he repeated this, tweeting: “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”

However, the result now condemns 74-year-old Trump to becoming the first one-term president since George H. W. Bush at the start of the 1990s.

Biden, who got the votes of a record more than 74 million people, was hunkered down with his running mate Kamala Harris, in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware.

Late Friday he delivered an address urging Americans to “come together as a nation and heal.”

The Secret Service has already begun intensifying its protective bubble around the president-elect, who will be inaugurated on January 20.

A centrist who promises to bring calm to Washington after four turbulent years under Trump, Biden is the oldest man to win the presidency — a position he twice sought unsuccessfully during his long political career, before being elected vice president to Barack Obama in 2008.

Harris, a senator and former California attorney general, will make history as the first Black woman to enter the White House in either of the two top jobs. At 56, she is seen as a leading contender to succeed Biden and try to become the first female US president.

– Polarized nation, Covid crisis -Overall turnout on Tuesday broke records with some 160 million people pouring out across the United States after a deeply polarizing campaign complicated by the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.

Biden secured his win by recapturing the Midwestern states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — traditional Democratic territory that Trump had flipped in 2016 with his powerful appeal to white, working class voters.

With Pennsylvania in the bag, Biden has now accumulated 273 out of 538 Electoral College votes, clearing the bar of 270, thereby making it impossible for Trump to get a second term even if he were to win the remaining undeclared states.

Biden was also ahead in Arizona, Nevada and in a near dead heat in Georgia — a southern state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992 and is now headed for a recount.

Results from congressional races indicate that Biden will face a divided legislature, with his Democrats holding a majority in the House and Republicans clinging to control of the Senate — although that could still shift.

The division in Washington will likely complicate immediately Biden’s ability to govern, starting with disputes in Congress over a delayed economic stimulus package for Americans hammered by the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

The US’ Federal Election Commission, FEC, has punctured claims by President Donald Trump that there is fraud in the presidential election.

Trump has consistently claimed that illegal votes were being counted in favour of challenger, Joe Biden.

He said if legal votes were counted, he truly won the election, but noted that several illegal votes were being counted at the moment.

But Ellen Weintraub, Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, wants Americans to know that “there really has been no evidence of fraud” in the election this year.

“State and local officials and poll workers throughout the country really stepped up. And there have been very few complaints about how this election was run,” Weintraub told CNN Saturday morning.

“Very few substantiated complaints, let me put it that way. There is no evidence of any kind of voter fraud. There is no evidence of illegal votes being cast.

“In fact, and you don’t have to take my word for it, because people throughout the country, non-partisan election experts, have come out and handled this election and how it was run.”

Weintraub added: “There really has been no evidence of fraud. None of the complaints have attached any evidence of fraud.”

By Agency Reporter

With his challenger Joe Biden at the brink of winning the US presidency, incumbent Donald Trump launched an extraordinary assault on the country’s democratic process.

In words and deeds, Trump showed desperation and panic as his re-election chances faded away, with more votes being counted in a handful of battleground states.

At a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, Trump falsely claimed the election was being “stolen” from him, as he also lost legal challenges to stop counting.

Offering no evidence, he lambasted election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes are pushing Democrat Joe Biden nearer to victory.

“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election,” Trump said.

He spoke for about 15 minutes in the White House briefing room before leaving without taking questions.

In Georgia and Michigan on Thursday, Trump’s campaign lost court rulings to challenge the counting of votes.

Undeterred by the setback, the campaign vowed to bring a new lawsuit challenging what it called voting irregularities in Nevada.

In the Georgia case, the campaign alleged 53 late-arriving ballots were mixed with on-time ballots. In Michigan, it had sought to stop votes from being counted and obtain greater access to the tabulation process.

State judges tossed out both the suits on Thursday.

Judge James Bass, a superior court judge in Georgia, said there was “no evidence” that the ballots in question were invalid.

In the Michigan case, Judge Cynthia Stephens said: “I have no basis to find that there is a substantial likelihood of success on the merits.”

Trump allies alleged that there had been voting irregularities in Nevada’s populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

Biden, the former vice president, was steadily eating away the Republican incumbent’s leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

He also maintains narrow advantages in Nevada and Arizona, moving closer to securing the 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.

In Pennsylvania, Trump’s lead had shrunk from 319,000 on Wednesday afternoon to less than 64,000 a day later.

His margin in Georgia fell from 68,000 to fewer than 3,500

Those numbers were expected to continue to move in Biden’s favour, with many of the outstanding ballots from areas that typically vote Democratic, including the cities of Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Biden, meanwhile, saw his lead in Arizona contract from 93,000 to 65,000; he was ahead in Nevada by only 11,000 votes.

Biden would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona.

Trump’s likeliest path appeared narrower – he needed to hang onto Pennsylvania and Georgia while overtaking Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.

Most major television networks gave Biden a 253 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes, which are largely determined by state population, after he captured the crucial states of Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday.

The Associated Press gave Biden 264 votes, calling out Arizona.

As demonstrators marched in several U.S. cities for a second straight day, the election lay in the hands of civil employees who were methodically counting hundreds of thousands of ballots, many of which were sent by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump has thwarted Joe Biden’s hopes of being the first Democrat to win Texas in a presidential race since 1976.

With 93% of the vote in Texas collated, Washington Times reported that Mr. Trump is leading with 52.3% of the vote – the same percentage he took in 2016 – while Mr. Biden had 46.2% of the vote.

Democrats have dreamt about flipping Texas, believing the state’s changing demographics have loosened the GOP’s stranglehold.

Mr. Biden’s backers believed he had a shot after Rep. Beto O’Rourke came within a few percentage points of beating Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and after Democrats flipped congressional seats in 2018.

However, Mr. Trump’s victory served as a reality check. Texas was the second biggest prize on the board, awarding 38 electoral votes.

Wednesday, 04 November 2020 16:17

Biden now leads Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin

Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden is now leading President Donald Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin by a narrow margin.

While 90 percent of votes have been counted in Michigan, 98 percent of the votes have been counted in Wisconsin.

The the election in the two states are close to call.

In Michigan, Biden has secured 49.3 percent of the votes, polling 2,516,759 votes to narrowly lead trump who has secured 49.1 percent of the votes, polling 2,507,100 votes.

In Wisconsin, Biden has already secured 49.4 percent of the votes, after polling 1,630,337 votes, while Trump has 48.8 percent of the votes after scoring 1,609,640.

But Trump maintains huge lead in Pennsylvania after 77 percent of votes have been counted, garnering 54.3 percent, polling 2,981,316 votes, while Biden secured 44.3 percent of the votes, amounting to 2,431,315 votes.

Elite Commandos of the US military have staged a military raid of bandits camp in Nigeria to free an American abducted in Niger Republic.

The American, Philip Walton, was abducted on 26 October by suspected bandits last week in a village in Niger, close to Nigeria. Nigeria has porous borders with Niger..

The US military rescued Walton during a high-risk U.S. military raid in Nigeria.

Officials told ABC News early Saturday that the counter-terrorism mission was undertaken by elite commandos as part of a major effort to free the 27-year-old U.S. citizen before his abductors could get far after taking him captive in Niger.

According to report, the operation involved the governments of the U.S., Niger and Nigeria working together to rescue Walton quickly.

It said the elite SEAL Team Six carried out the rescue mission and killed all but one of the captors, according to officials with direct knowledge about the operation.

“They were all dead before they knew what happened,” another counterterrorism source with knowledge told ABC News.

The Pentagon lauded the rescue mission in a statement.

“U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men,” said Pentagon chief spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.

“This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.

“We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation.”

U.S. and Nigerien officials had said that Walton was kidnapped from his backyard last Monday after assailants asked him for money. But he only offered $40 USD and was then taken away by force, according to sources in Niger.

Walton lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria.

Nigerien and American officials told ABC News that they believed the captors were from an armed group from Nigeria and that it was not considered terror-related. But hostages are often sold to terrorist groups.

Concern grew quickly after the kidnapping that an opportunity to rescue Walton could become much more dangerous if he was taken by or sold to a group of Islamist militants aligned with either al Qaeda or ISIS and American special operations commanders felt they needed to act swiftly before that could occur, said one counterterrorism official briefed on the hostage recovery operations.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed after the kidnapping that an American citizen had been abducted in Niger and said the U.S. government was “providing their family all possible consular assistance.” The spokesperson declined to comment on the case, citing “privacy considerations,” but added, “When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can.”

Another American, Christian humanitarian aid worker Jeffery Rey Woodke, 60, has been held hostage for the past four years since being kidnapped in northern Niger by armed militants.

Friday, 02 October 2020 20:52

Trump, Melania test positive for COVID-19

President Donald Trump has tested positive for Covid-19, upending the already tense US election, but was described by his doctor on Friday as feeling “well” and able to perform his duties while quarantining.

Trump, 74, first announced on Twitter that he and First Lady Melania Trump, 50, had tested positive for the virus.

“We will get through this TOGETHER!” he wrote.

The extraordinary setback for Trump had immediate political consequences just 31 days before election day, forcing him to cancel campaign trips and adding new volatility to a contest already steeped in tension.

Trump’s challenger, Democrat Joe Biden, is well ahead in the polls and has made criticism of the Republican’s handling of the coronavirus — and frequent downplaying of the pandemic’s seriousness — a key issue.

Trump, in response, has been betting on an evermore aggressive schedule of campaign rallies around the country. The events, which he says prove his true political strength, bring together thousands of people, often without masks and sometimes in contravention of local rules.

That strategy is now in doubt, with the White House immediately cancelling a planned campaign rally in the crucial swing state of Florida later Friday.

It looked certain that Trump would have to cancel a trip scheduled for this weekend in Wisconsin, another battleground. He had also been expected to travel frequently next week, including longer distances to western states.

A second televised debate with Biden is scheduled for October 15.

Technically obese and in his 70s, Trump is in a higher-risk category for coronavirus patients.

Trump’s official physician, Sean Conley, said in a statement that the president and his wife “are both well at this time.”

“They plan to remain home at the White House during their convalescence,” he said. However, “I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.”

The shock news came right after one of Trump’s closest advisors, Hope Hicks, was reported Thursday to have come down with the virus.

Hicks, 31, travelled with Trump to Cleveland for his first debate with Biden on Tuesday. She was with him again for a campaign rally in Minnesota on Wednesday.

With Hicks sharing Trump’s Air Force One plane and the even more cramped confines of the Marine One helicopter, speculation immediately erupted that Trump and possibly many others in his close entourage were exposed.

Despite Hicks’ diagnosis, Trump took another Air Force One trip on Thursday to meet with donors in New Jersey.

It was only late Thursday that Trump confirmed media reports about Hicks while giving an interview to Fox News. He announced that he had been tested but did not say whether he had received the results.

“You know I spend a lot of time with Hope, and so does the first lady,” Trump said.

Hicks is the most senior White House aide announced to have contracted Covid-19.

In May, the spokeswoman of Vice President Mike Pence and wife of Trump’s speechwriter, Katie Miller, came down with the virus. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien contracted the virus and went into quarantine in July.

Trump says the United States has put behind the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 Americans, and he rarely wears a mask, noting that he receives frequent testing.

However, his own health experts have often given less rosy assessments of the state of the pandemic in the world’s richest country.

And Trump has been sharply criticized for the large rallies where few supporters wear masks. He himself has given mixed signals to the public on the need for wearing masks at all.

By contrast, Biden has run a low key campaign with social distancing at most events, no large gatherings, and conspicuous use of his mask wherever he goes.

At their first debate on Tuesday, the candidates were tested and spent the angry, often chaotic 90 minutes standing close to each other. Trump’s family and supporters in the audience did not wear masks.

White House spokesman Judd Deere earlier said: “the president takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.”

Deere said the White House takes care to follow procedures “for limiting Covid-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the president is travelling.”

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