How Donald Trump practices physical distancing versus other world leaders

Poppy Noor
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

As the world continues to battle a growing pandemic, the situation in the US is escalating rapidly. There have been more than 55,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the US so far, and in the absence of widespread public testing, the true number of cases is likely to be higher. The projections aren’t looking good, either – even if the US cut its transmission rate in half, about 650,000 people could end up infected in the coming months, according to the New York Times.

In the midst of this crisis, Donald Trump spent considerable time comparing the virus to the flu, telling people he wants them back at work as soon as possible and talking about packed churches at Easter.

That Trump is not taking the situation seriously enough seems clear. When leading a country through a crisis, optics matter. These photos of other world leaders reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic show the stark difference between how they and the US president view the situation.

Italy

Italy has been one of countries worst hit by Covid-19, with the highest death rate in the world. But Italians are at least now under state-mandated quarantine, with certification required to leave the house. When people do leave, mayors can be seen shouting at them, calling them idiots and threatening them with flamethrowers. And look, here the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, can be seen holding a press conference enacting appropriate physical distancing measures.

Germany

Angela Merkel makes a press statement on the spread of coronavirus on 22 March. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/AFP via Getty Images

This week, Angela Merkel restricted German people from meeting in groups of more than two. Here she is, enacting adequate physical distancing policy while making a press statement on Covid-19. She went into quarantine this week, too, after her doctor tested positive for coronavirus.

Trump, on the other hand, continued to go untested for days after three infected members of the Brazilian delegation attended a dinner together at Mar-a-Lago. Other politicians who met with the same members of the Brazilian delegation – such as Senators Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham – quarantined themselves.

Netherlands

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, on 23 March. Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA

Here is a photo of the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, and his cabinet also enacting the appropriate physical distancing policy. Notice how focused they all look, and how their behavior speaks to the gravity of the situation.

Hong Kong

Here, the Hong Kong government attend a Covid-19 conference wearing face masks. Again, health safety is paramount and demonstrated as such.

UK

Robert Jernick, Boris Johnson and Jenny Harries give a press briefing at Downing Street on 22 March. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

The English are probably closest to Trump in terms of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They don’t exactly look 6ft apart. The short, capitalized slogans at each pulpit are even reminiscent of the prompts Trump has relied on in the past for his big speeches.

And finally, the US

Here are pictures of Trump’s many press conferences, during which the mandatory physical distancing protocol is not followed.

Official stand near each other at a press conference on 13 March. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock
A press conference on 23 March. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

If Trump can’t demonstrate that he takes social distancing seriously at a press conference about Covid-19, does he really expect anyone else in the US population to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance?