Biden compares his ‘quick recovery’ to Trump’s ‘severe’ illness after negative test

President Joe Biden has ended his five days of isolation after a positive Covid-19 test last week with a triumphant return to the Oval Office. He delivered remarks comparing his “quick recovery” to the “severe” illness faced by his predecessor just under two years ago.

Roughly 90 minutes after it was announced that he had twice tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday, Mr Biden emerged from the White House residence and strode triumphantly along the West Colonnade to the sound of “Hail to the Chef” before taking his place on a podium in the White House Rose Garden.

“Thankfully … my symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick, and I’m feeling great,” he said, addressing an audience composed mainly of staffers from his administration.

Mr Biden noted that he had been infected by the BA.5 variant, which is connected to the Omicron variant of the virus that wreaked havoc across the US this winter, and said the highly transmissible nature of this latest Sars-CoV-2 variant means it will spread widely among the US population irrespective of preventative measures.

“This new variant that infected me is getting a lot of people infected all around the world, not just here in the United States”, Mr Biden said. “The reality is that many of us are still going to get Covid, even if we take the precautions — that doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong.”

The president noted that he been able to remain on the job throughout his five-day isolation period, calling his ability to work while undergoing treatment a “real statement on where we are in the fight against Covid”.

Mr Biden’s bout with the coronavirus was a stark contrast from what his predecessor, Donald Trump, went through after contracting it in October 2020.

At the time, Mr Trump — who eschewed masking and other mitigation measures as he campaigned for re-election — became so severely ill that his physicians insisted that he travel by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.

Mr Trump chose to fly there while he was still able to go under his own power so as to avoid being photographed in a wheelchair by the press, and was so ill at the time that administration officials had to arrange for him to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment that was not available to the general public.

The president noted the contrast between his bout with Covid and Mr Trump’s, and credited his own fast recovery to vaccinations and treatments his administration has worked to make widely available. including the antiviral he was treated with, Paxlovid.

“When my predecessor got Covid, he had to get a helicopter to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered”, he said. “I got Covid and I worked from upstairs in the White House … for the five-day period”.

Mr Biden said the difference between his experience and Mr Trump’s stemmed from “vaccinations, of course” as well as “three new tools” that are “free to all and widely available”: Covid-19 vaccinations, testing, and the Paxlovid antiviral treatment.

“You don’t need to be president to get these tools used for your defence,” he said. In fact, the same booster shots, the same at home test, the same treatment that I got. It’s available to you.”

The president also boasted about the measures his administration has taken to get the virus under control, calling the situation in the US today “radically different” from what Americans faced just one year ago.

“Booster shots weren’t available a year ago. They are now everywhere. Every person aged five and over should get a booster shot. If you’re over 50 years old, you should get two booster shots”, he said. “We’ve made tests widely available, so you can take one before attending a large indoor gathering or visiting with high-risk individuals. We made high-quality masks available for free. So you should consider wearing a mask when you’re in a crowded indoor public place. These precautions add an extra layer of protection for you and for those around you.”

“What’s different now is our ability to protect ourselves from serious illness due to Covid … that’s radically different today than it was just a year ago,” he said, adding that although the coronavirus “isn’t gone,” deaths from Covid-19 are 90 per cent lower than this time last year.

“Our fight against Covid is making a huge difference”, Mr Biden said, adding that “what’s different now is our ability to protect ourselves” against “serious illness”.

Continuing, the president said his administration “has left no stone unturned in our fight against this pandemic,” and credited the work of his staff with helping American life return to a degree of normalcy.

“Grandparents are hugging their kids and grandkids again, weddings [and] birthday celebrations are happening in person again. So let’s keep emerging from one of the darkest moments in our history with hope and light for what can come,” he said.