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World Leaders React After President Trump Tests Positive For The Coronavirus

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So how is the world reacting to President Trump's positive test for the coronavirus? We have NPR Central European correspondent Rob Schmitz with us this morning. He's been monitoring reactions from different parts of the world. Rob, thanks for being here.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: I guess one type of reaction we often see in moments like this is international markets who might, you know, be responding to this uncertainty. What are you seeing so far?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. European markets opened lower today due to the news. Germany's DAX composite fell nearly 1% in early trading. And the STOXX Europe 600 dropped 0.8%. So there's a bit of anxiety about the way forward now that the president of the world's biggest economy has not been spared from COVID-19.

GREENE: And what about direct responses from other world leaders?

SCHMITZ: Well, EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are busy at an EU summit in Brussels today. But a few leaders have reacted to the news. European Council President Charles Michel wished the Trumps a speedy recovery. And he tweeted that COVID-19 is a battle we all wage every day, no matter where we live. French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the virus spares no one, including those who have shown themselves skeptical, obviously referring to Trump's earlier relaxed approach to the virus.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin wished Trump a speedy recovery. And at the same time, the Kremlin announced that Putin would be vaccinated against the virus with what Russia calls its highly effective vaccine, which international experts are doubting. Other politicians took this opportunity to ridicule President Trump. European parliamentarian Radosław Sikorski, who is a former foreign minister of Poland, wrote on Twitter, Mr. President, I suggest you do not try to treat yourself with bleach.

GREENE: How are we seeing this covered in the media, like in - I mean, especially in countries that are, you know, sort of adversaries of the United States, like China?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. Media reaction in China has - and elsewhere - has been pretty scathing. Hu Xijin, the editor of the Chinese tabloid The Global Times, tweeted that President Trump and the first lady are paying the price for his gamble to downplay COVID-19. And he mentioned this news shows how severe the U.S. pandemic situation really is. Here in Europe, media reaction also seems to be taking the same critical approach. Germany's most popular daily, Der Spiegel, led with the headline "The American Patient." And on Twitter here in Germany, one of the top trending terms is schadenfreude, the German word for feeling pleasure from another's suffering. So on the media front, not too much sympathy for President Trump and the first lady's condition.

GREENE: Wow. I mean, just listening to those types of things, some of the reaction from other world leaders, I mean, it sounds like how the president here has handled this pandemic is something that a lot of people around the world have taken note of.

SCHMITZ: Absolutely. And I think it goes before - it goes to pre-pandemic days, at least for here in Europe, as well. I mean, in his nearly four years as president, Trump has not made many friends in most of Europe. He's imposed crippling tariffs on a range of European products that have cost the EU economy billions. He's also relentlessly criticized Germany for not contributing enough to NATO. And as a result, he's announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Germany.

He's also placed sanctions on an important Russian-German gas pipeline. And he's removed the U.S. from international agreements like the Paris accord on climate change. He's begun the U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization during the worst pandemic in recent memory. All of these actions have built up a fair amount of frustration for President Trump throughout Europe.

GREENE: And, Rob, what is life like in Berlin as of now? I mean, are you feeling, like, still lockdown, pandemic mode? Or are things coming back to normal? What's the situation?

SCHMITZ: Well, if you go out on the street in Berlin, it's fairly normal. It looks normal. People aren't forced to wear masks yet. But I think - you know, we've seen comments from Angela Merkel lately that the pandemic is raging and that numbers are going up. And she expects numbers to go up into the tens of thousands, perhaps, by December if nothing more is done about it. So expect more restrictions here, at least in Germany, as we've seen in other countries in Europe already.

GREENE: A reminder as we hear about this from all parts of the world that this pandemic is far from over. NPR's Rob Schmitz for us in Berlin. Rob, thank you so much.

SCHMITZ: Thanks, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAMPIQUE'S "EARTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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