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Best wishes and barbs: World leaders react to Trump testing positive for the coronavirus

Russian President Vladimir Putin even sent a telegram.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he addresses the nation during a remote press conference at Downing Street on September 30.
Jack Hill/Getty Images

Ever since President Donald Trump announced he and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus early Friday morning, statements ranging from the heartfelt to the grotesque have poured in from world leaders — some even via telegram.

Some messages featured curiously similar language, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson — who himself contracted the virus earlier this year — offering their best wishes for a “full” or “speedy recovery” to the First Couple.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, opted for ... let’s call it aggressive warmth. “I am certain that your inherent life energy, high spirits and optimism will help you to overcome the dangerous virus,” he told Trump in a telegram (yes, an actual old-timey telegram). North Korean leader Kim Jong Un noted the First Family “will surely overcome” the virus.

Others decided to turn the Trumps’ misfortune into a global teaching moment.

“#COVID-19 is a battle we all continue to fight. Everyday. No matter where we live,” EU Council President Charles Michel tweeted, though he still wished the White House denizens well. In a more fiery response, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said, “This demonstrates that the virus spares no one, including those who have shown skepticism. I wish him a swift recovery.”

While Chinese government officials offered the ubiquitous “speedy recovery” line, Hu Xijin, editor of the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper, initially tweeted sharp barbs at Trump.

“President Trump and the first lady have paid the price for his gamble to play down the COVID-19. The news shows the severity of the US’ pandemic situation,” he wrote, adding the news “may also negatively affect his reelection.” Hu has since deleted the tweet, and instead retweeted a kinder message from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

It’s possible — if not totally likely — that high-level officials in Beijing told Hu to take down his tweet for fear of further ratcheting up US-China tensions.

Screenshot of Hu Xijin’s tweet.

The good news, though, is that most of the world hopes the Trumps get well as soon as possible. At a time when it feels like nations are always battling each other, it’s good to see most set differences aside in a solemn moment.