World News

Spain sees peak death toll in one day as COVID 19 fatalities rise about 10,000

The number of overall cases went up on Thursday from 102,136 to 110,238 within a day. Spain’s rising figures forced the country into a strict lockdown, but that was recently extended until at least April 11.

After Italy, Spain is the second country in the World with the most deaths.

It also has the third-highest number cases after the United States and Italy.

The daily increase in infections in the country is slowing compared to the last few week’s – Thursday’s increase represented a 7.9 percent increase.

On March 25, recorded cases surged by more than 20 percent.

Despite the soaring numbers, Health Minister Salvador Illa said there was a glimpse of hope: ”The data shows that the curve has stabilised – we have reached the highest point and things are slowing down,

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel. A glimpse of hope: the curve has stabilised.

“The peak of the curve and we have started the slowdown phase.”

At this time of uncertainty and grief, paralysed businesses have left even more damage as about one million people lose their jobs.

Spain saw over 900,000 job losses since it went into lockdown in mid-March.

A further 620,000 people were laid off, while about 80,000 people were off sick after becoming infected with the virus.

Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz said: “This is an absolutely unprecedented situation.”

“The country is practically paralysed as a result of the health emergency,” Unai Sordo, the leader of Spain’s biggest labour union CCOO, told Spanish broadcaster TVE.

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Although Spain’s unemployment record suffered in the past – especially with the 2008-09 financial crisis – the rate at which jobs were lost in the past month has been crippling.

“The destruction of jobs is extraordinarily heavy for women, young people and the most precarious work sectors,” Pepe Alvarez, leader of the UGT union, Spain’s second-biggest union told RNE radio.

The lack of PPE is also stifling the health system.

Spanish doctors and nurses have had to cut up protective clothing out of bin bags.

More than 15,000 healthcare workers are sick or self-isolating at home.

The Spanish capital, Madrid, is also the epicentre of the outbreak.

Medical staff make up about 15 percent of the country’s confirmed cases.

In Madrid, the epicentre of the outbreak in Spain, the concentration is higher – 21 percent.

In Italy healthcare workers make up just below 10 percent of confirmed cases – although experts say the figures is not comparable as staff may not be tested on the same scale.

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Professor warns half of Sweden could be infected with coronavirus in April

Tom Britton, a mathematics professor from Stockholm University, claimed there is a chance that up to a million people are already infected with the virus. Swedish authorities have only confirmed 5,466 cases as of today.

Professor Britton used mathematical models to estimate the figures, which will peak around the middle of the month.

According to his calculations, Sweden will see 5million infections by April 30.

Despite not putting lockdown measures into place, the Swedish government has asked citizens to act “like adults” and take precautions.

Mr Britton said in an interview with Radio Sweden that it is still to early to dictate whether the government’s measures have had any effect in the fight against the pandemic.

He said he based his calculations on death figures, as they are the only accurate data he has.

Death figures are used to calculate an estimated number of infections, but it means looking three weeks back – since that is approximately how long it takes for a patient to worsen and die from the disease.

Sweden’s social distancing measures were only introduced two weeks ago, which means they will not show in the collected data yet.

Without social distancing, the average person is thought to infect 2.5 people.

Social distancing helps decrease the number of infections.

Anything under 1 means the virus starts to dwindle.

Hospitals are estimated to be under peak pressure around two weeks after April 15, as patients begin to develop symptoms.

“China succeeded in [reducing its R value] by very comprehensive measures, and very quickly, so that less than 1 percent will be infected in Wuhan,” he said.

“I am not convinced that we will be as effective in Sweden.”

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Mr Britton admitted that although he is not directly involved in the government’s fight against the outbreak, but he is in contact with mathematicians who advise the authorities.

Last week 2,000 doctors, scientists, and professors signed a petition to demand the government for stricter social distancing measures.

Among the entities who signed was Professor Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation.

Mr Britton’s warning comes as Cecilia Söderberg-Nauclér, a virus researcher from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, also voiced her concern.

Speaking to The Guardian, she said: “We’re not testing enough, we’re not tracking, we’re not isolating enough – we have let the virus loose.

“They are leading us to catastrophe.”

According to the World Health Organisation’s Europe branch there were 464,859 confirmed coronavirus infections and a death toll of 30,098 in Europe.

Around 80 percent of those who died from the disease had at least one underlying disease.

Some of the underlying illnesses that proved fatal include cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

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World News

EU branded ‘selfish’ after member states furiously row over coronavirus response

Europe’s coronavirus death toll jumped above 30,000 and the EU’s economy has been severely hit by the crisis. However, European leaders have been squabbling over a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint “coronabonds” to help finance an economic stimulus and weather the crisis. “It is clear that the European Union is an egoistic coalition,” Mr Mélenchon, a member of the French parliament and president of the leftist France Unbowed party, told France Info radio.

“Today, Europe does not exist; it is playing no role in this health crisis.

“The bloc is irrelevant and should be left to sleep in a corner.”

His harsh remarks were echoed by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who today called for more solidarity at the EU level to fight the coronavirus pandemic and warned differences between the bloc’s 27 member states were putting everyone at risk.

In a letter published in Italian daily La Repubblica, Ms von der Leyen said too many European countries had focused on their own problems in the first days of the health crisis, which “was harmful and could have been avoided”.

“Only solidarity will allow us to emerge from this crisis,” she continued. “The distance between European nations puts everyone at risk.”

She added the EU executive would allocate up to 100 billion euros (£87.9 billion) to the hardest hit countries, starting with Italy, to make up for reduction in wages and save jobs.

The bloc’s divisions were exposed last week after leaders clashed over how to minimise the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, with the poorer south angered by the reluctance of the richer north to offer more support.

Tensions rose after Germany and the Netherlands rejected a push by Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to issue joint so-called “coronabonds” to help finance an economic stimulus.

The frugal northern economies said their big-spending southern neighbours could exploit the crisis to push for a pooling of eurozone government debts.

Mr Mélenchon, for his part, slammed their refusal to issue the bonds as “unreasonable” and “petty”.

The union’s richer northern economies “cannot maintain their neo-liberal dogmas when the bloc is in full crisis,” he said.

France on Wednesday reported its highest single-day death toll from Covid-19 – the respiratory illness associated with the virus –, though there were signs that the epidemic could be peaking in Europe.

Italy’s death toll, the highest in the world, climbed past 13,000; while in Spain deaths passed 9,000. The rate of new cases, however, continued to slow, offering the struggling states a glimmer of hope.

More than 900,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and nearly 46,000 have died since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, according to an AFP tally.

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World News

Trump coronavirus fears: How former US president kept illness ‘secret’ for months

The US is leading the world in terms of number of coronavirus cases at over 200,000 and third in the world in terms of deaths at over 5,000, if China’s are not counted, as it is not known what their accurate figures are. Mr Trump, 73, is in an age bracket that is more vulnerable to the virus, with eight percent of people in their seventies dying with it. While the President tested negative for COVID-19 on March 15, there have and will be many more opportunities over the coming weeks for him to contract the virus.

Amid these concerns, questions are being asked as to what might happen if the President is taken ill.

There are clear provisions in place for if a President dies ‒ there is a line of succession for who should take over starting with the Vice President, currently Mike Pence, followed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, currently Chuck Grassley, and the Leader of the House of Representatives, currently Nancy Pelosi.

If the President is “incapacitated” through illness there is a provision in the 25 Amendment for the Vice President to take control of the President’s powers and duties.

Either the President must write a written declaration declaring themself unable to discharge their powers and duties, or if they are unable or unwilling to do this, the Vice President can write the letter themself, as long as they have the support of the majority of the Cabinet or some other body “as Congress may by law provide”.

Astonishingly however, the 25th Amendment was only made law in 1967 and before then there was serious ambiguity as to what should happen if a President becomes incapacitated.

No one could be sure what constituted an “inability” to govern, or who would decide if the President was “unable”.

Twice this led to a complete government standstill.

In October 1919, President Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and was left seriously ill for the remainder of his term.

Nearly blind and partially paralysed, he spent 17 months secluded in the White House, trying not to let the world know his condition.

Even his Vice President, Thomas Marshall, as well as the Cabinet and the nation were kept in the dark about the severity of his illness for several months.

Mr Marshall was too afraid to ask about Mr Wilson’s health or preside over Cabinet meetings in his absence, fearful that he would be accused of “longing for his place”.

This meant that in the period from October 1919 to March 1921, the government was largely disabled from exercising any presidential power.

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It goes to show how unwell Mr Wilson was that when he left office and attempted to continue practicing law, he was unable, and could not manage any public role at all.

He died three years later in February 1924.

A similar constitutional crisis happened around 40 years earlier when President James Garfield was shot in July 1881.

For 80 days between the assassination attempt and when he succumbed to his wounds in September, there was a complete impasse in government.

Congressional leaders urged Vice President Chester Arthur to step up and exercise presidential authorities while the President was disabled, but he declined, fearful of being labeled a usurper.

Aware that he was in a delicate position and being scrutinised from all sides, he refused to go to Washington and stayed in his New York home until he heard Mr Garfield had died.

With the passing of the 25th Amendment in 1967, there are clear provisions for what should happen if a president is unable to discharge their powers and duties.

Three times it has been invoked, but only for a few hours.

Ronald Reagan invoked it while he had surgery, with George HW Bush standing in as Acting President, and George W Bush invoked it twice while he had a colonoscopy done, with Dick Cheney standing in as Acting President.

However, there have been times when it was rumoured a President was suffering from ill health that it was not invoked.

President Reagan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease five years after leaving office, was rumoured to have been suffering from the condition towards the end of his term, although this is unproven.

It will nevertheless be a relief to many that there are provisions for Mike Pence to take over presidential duties were Mr Trump to become incapacitated with coronavirus, so that a standstill does not happen, as it did in the past.

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U.N. warns of 'dire' effects of coronavirus, 'greatest test' since WWII

(Reuters) – The United Nations warned of potentially “dire” long-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak on countries and the global economy and called for greater international cooperation to fight the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as he launched a report this week to address responses to the crisis. The U.N. was founded 75 years ago, after World War Two.

The U.N. report appealed to countries to follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines and for an immediate health response to curb the spread of the virus, including stepping up testing, quarantine and treatment.

“We are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the COVID-19 worldwide and to be able to tackle the negative impacts,” Guterres told reporters at a virtual news conference.

Guterres said he was particularly concerned for Africa and urged developed countries to do more for less prepared nations.

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” Guterres said.

The report also called for a multilateral response amounting to at least 10% of global gross domestic product.

Over 878,000 people worldwide have been infected with the novel coronavirus and over 43,000 people have died, according to Reuters data.

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Putin shows military might as Russian warship ‘destroys enemy submarine’ in Mediterranean

Three Black Sea frigates were deployed to the intercontinental waters to seek and “destroy” a notional “enemy” vessel as part of a naval drill. The mission saw three warships – Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen practice tactical techniques of detecting and continuously chasing the submarine. During the aggressive drill, the crew “notionally” employed “torpedo weapons and rocket-propelled bombs” on the target.

The vessels were also joined on the mission by a war helicopter which provided support for the ships as they engaged.

The Russian ships were armed with eight Kalibr-NK cruise missiles which can strike surface, coastal and underwater targets of up to 1,600 miles away.

An AK-630M air defence missile, A-190 100mm universal artillery guns, torpedo tubes and RBU-6000 rocket launchers also form part of the ships arsenal of weapons.

A statement from the Fleet’s press office read: “The Black Sea Fleet’s surface action group comprising the frigates Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen held drills in the Mediterranean Sea to search for and destroy a notional enemy’s submarine.

“The frigates’ crews are currently accomplishing missions as part of the Navy’s permanent taskforce in the distant maritime zone.

“As a result of joint operations by the crews of the frigates and the helicopter, the chase of the submarine ended with its notional destruction.”

The latest drill comes as the Russian Military step up the number of exercises it is conducting in international waters.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg noted a “significant Russian naval presence” in the North Sea and a large military exercise in late March.

The NATO chief insisted he had been reassured by the Russian Military that the drills formed part of an exercise to combat COVID-19.

Mr Stoltenberg said: “Moscow provided a notification that they were going to have a snap exercise, which they said was intended to test their capabilities to provide military support to the civil response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The Russia Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, carried out from March 25-28, included medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops.

Earlier today Russian state TV reported a military transport plane took off from Moscow bound for the US carrying medical equipment and masks.


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Russian President Vladimir Putin offered help in the battle against coronavirus following a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Monday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.”

In the US there are more than 187,000 cases of coronavirus – more than any country on Earth and nearly 3,900 deaths.

In Russia, there have been 2,337 confirmed cases with 17 deaths.

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World News

Putin ‘disappears’ in coronavirus panic as top doctor infected

Putin will hold a government meeting later on Wednesday by video conference, the Kremlin said, a day after a doctor who met him last week said he had been diagnosed with the highly infectious virus. Denis Protsenko last week gave Putin a tour of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital and shook hands with the Russian leader. Protsenko is now self-isolating in his office.

The Kremlin, which has said that everything is fine with Putin’s health, said the president was now keeping his distance from other people and preferred to work remotely.

Asked if Putin had changed the way he greeted people and was now keeping a distance, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Of course, now everyone is maintaining a social distance. Everyone is doing this.”

Russia expanded its coronavirus lockdown on Wednesday to cover more of its sprawling territory as the official tally of infections rose to 2,777, a one-day increase of 440. Twenty-four people have so far died in Russia, authorities say.

Moscow, a bustling metropolis of more than 12.5 million that has become the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, has come to an eerie standstill since announcing a partial lockdown on Sunday.

Residents can leave their homes only to buy food or medicine nearby, get urgent medical treatment, walk the dog or empty their bins. Red Square was largely empty on Tuesday except for police who stopped occasional passersby to check their papers.

On Wednesday, a Moscow city official said authorities had developed a smartphone app for residents who have contracted the virus that would allow officials to monitor their movements. The app will be available from Thursday, the official, Eduard Lysenko, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

The Russian capital is also preparing to roll out a QR-code system where each resident that registers online will be assigned a unique code that they can show to police officers if stopped when going to the shop or the chemist, he said.

Both measures appeared in an unconfirmed draft blueprint for a city-wide surveillance system that was circulated online this week. Kremlin critics said it risked turning Moscow into a “digital concentration camp”.

Lysenko said that anyone without a device that is able to download the tracking app would be lent one by city authorities that they would later return.

Eight southern Russian regions rolled out lockdown measures similar to Moscow on Wednesday, meaning that over two thirds of Russia’s more than 80 regions are now in a state of partial lockdown.

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World News

‘Concealing the truth’ Chinese whistleblower speaks out on COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan

More than 860,000 people have now been infected with the deadly virus and 42,000 dead, as millions are in lockdown across the world indefinitely. COVID-19 is believed to have originated in Wuhan at a seafood market where wild animals including birds, bats and snakes were traded illegally. The first case of the virus is thought to have been recorded as early as December 1, but China did not report the outbreak to the World Health Organisation (WHO) until December 31.

Speaking on Four Corner’s ‘Secrets behind Coronavirus’ documentary, Centre for Strategic International Studies senior fellow Richard McGregor said the Chinese government sat on this information for weeks.

He said last month: “The key point in this saga is they lost about two weeks, maybe three, just when the virus was at its nascent point, just at a time where they could have traced it, a time when perhaps they could have checked it.

“When a group of doctors began sharing information they had about a strange new virus on WeChat, they were doing what you would expect medical professionals to do.

“But, of course, that’s a dangerous thing to do in China.

The central government adopted the policy of concealing the truth

Dr Wu Qiang

“I think there’s little doubt that local officials in Wuhan did withhold information, the doctors who were talking about it were explicitly told to shut up.”

The communist country arrested anyone “spreading rumours” online, including Dr Li Wenliang, who first raised the alert to his former classmates in a private WeChat group.

Former Tsinghua University politics lecturer, Dr Wu Qiang, told investigators that the Chinese government was concealing the truth, which allowed for the outbreak on such a huge scale.

He said: “I have no doubts that the local government reported the situation to the central government.

“So local government were not accountable to the people at that time.


“But the central government adopted the policy of concealing the truth from the public, starting to control the epidemic internally.

“This contradiction prevented them from properly mobilising to deal with the spread of the epidemic.

“Although internal controls were in place, the information kept from the public’s eye caused the outbreak of the disaster and the spread of the disease.”

Dr Wu claims he is not alone in the anger towards the government and said there is a growing amount of unrest in the country over the handling.

He added: “More of the 900 million Chinese citizens, who are equipped with smartphones, have become extremely dissatisfied with the virus in the past month or so.

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“From my own observation, this level of dissatisfaction is unprecedented in the past 80 years.

“They have been tremendously dissatisfied with the local government’s ineffectiveness in epidemic and disaster relief the Wuhan people have seen from the city lockdown, the paralysis of the local medical institutions and the huge risk they face.”

On February 11, 34-year-old Dr Wenliang lost his battle with coronavirus, weeks after sounding the alarm over the virus.

Last week, the Wuhan police made an official apology to the family of Dr Li for their “inappropriate handling of the situation” and revoked the letter of reprimand for spreading rumours.

However, Dr Wu claims the people of China are shocked with the handling of the situation.

He added: “The public intellectuals and the public both realised that Dr Li represented the conscience of China.

“He was oppressed from the beginning for telling the truth and could have saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

“But all this was concealed due to the authorities’ suppression of free speech.

“I believe the public expressed their dissatisfaction with the government by commemorating him.”

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World News

Merkel humiliation: Party ally claims Chancellor ‘needs to be more like Boris Johnson!’

This is because while Ms Merkel has suffered a number of electoral humiliations in recent years, Mr Johnson enjoyed success in December’s general election. In the country’s 2013 Federal Elections, the AfD (Alternative for Germany), having just been founded, won 810,000 votes winning no seats. But in the next vote four years later, the party boosted their share to over five million votes, a rise bigger than Ukip’s between 2010-2015. In last year’s state elections, Ms Merkel’s party also suffered a huge blow in the Thuringia region – where her CDU party usually dominate.

This time they finished third, behind the AfD in second as Die Linke (The Left) claimed a surprise victory.

Felix Schoenherr of the Werte Union – a group within Merkel’s CDU critical of her leadership – claims that she would have been more successful if she had made her position clear like Mr Johnson did with Brexit.

He told “From what I see in the news Johnson was leaning towards the Brexit crowd while Theresa May was trying to get consensus which didn’t work.

“Johnson was very clever with his clear cut message: ‘Get Brexit done.’

“We have polarisation now in society, and I think Johnson made a smart move by acknowledging this in the election when he said ‘Get Brexit done’.”

However, Mr Schoenherr says Ms Merkel has failed to achieve the same level of authority.

He continued: “From Werte Union’s point of view, this crisis is mainly due to policy on energy and the refugee crisis.

“Also, there is a consensus that there is an appeasement to the left going on from Merkel.

“Around the last 10 years the CDU has tried to reach out to leftist parties, but this is a problem because the party’s standpoint is not clear anymore.

“If you are appeasing your opponents all the time the message cannot be clear, and this has left the party in a state of decline.”

Now, as Ms Merkel vows to step down in 2021, an old rival is aiming to succeed her.

Friedrich Merz has a long history with Ms Merkel after the current Chancellor beat him to the leadership of the party in 2002.

After leaving politics in 2009, Ms Merz is now back in the fold and hoping the series of setbacks for his historic rival could allow him to take her chair as Chancellor.

Many tip the businessman to push the CDU to the right in an effort to revive the party’s electoral fortunes.

Mr Schoenherr believes there are parallels between Mr Merz in Germany and Mr Johnson in the UK.

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When asked by whether there are similarities between Johnson and Merz, Mr Schonherr said: “Yeah, I see certain parallels.”

He added: “From what I see in the news Johnson was leaning towards the Brexit crowd while Theresa May was trying to get consensus which didn’t work.

“Johnson was very clever with his clear cut message: ‘Get Brexit done.’

“The similar thing with Merz is that he is more clear cut while Merkel is just juggling around.

“Johnson took lots of votes from Ukip and the Brexit Party – that is what Merz is trying to do in Germany, to take votes away from the AfD through policy shift.”

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Barron Trump: How youngest Trump ‘broke mould in place since JFK’s presidency’

Barron, 13, is the only child of Melania Trump, the President’s third wife and the current US First Lady. The three most recent presidents ‒ Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton ‒ were fathers only to girls, as were Lyndon B Johnson and Richard Nixon who followed on from JFK. The Presidents in between them ‒ Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush ‒ all had sons, but they were adults who lived outside the White House.

Therefore, Barron is the first son of a President to call the White House home since Mr Kennedy’s sons John Jnr and Patrick in 1963.

However, in another break from tradition, he and his mother Melania did not move to the White House straight away.

Instead, they stayed behind in New York so that Barron could finish his school year, before moving to Washington DC in the summer.

The first family’s living quarters are located on the second and third floors of the White House.

Like their parents, children are allowed to decorate their own spaces, according to chief historian of the White House Historical Association Edward Lengel.

The family can also control how they use their private quarters – the Bushes for example “were very open”, with Laura Bush even letting documentary filmmakers in, New York Times correspondent Jodi Kanter told Chicago Magazine in 2012.

In contrast, the Obamas were much more private, their attitude being that “this is Sasha’s and Malia’s home”.

The White House has a basketball court, a jogging track, a swimming pool, a cinema, a billiard room and a bowling alley, according to Town & Country magazine.

However, for Barron these quarters may well be a step down from his home in Trump Tower in New York City, where he had an entire floor to himself, which his mother referred to as “Barron’s living room”.

While previous White House children tended to find that the tight security makes it difficult for them to have privacy, some of them came up with creative ways to have private fun within the White House walls.

According to Mr Lengel, Jimmy Carter’s daughter Amy had a treehouse built in the grounds, while Chelsea Clinton made herself a secluded breakfast nook.

The White House also comes with a full kitchen staff ready to make anything upon request.

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When President Trump first moved in, he apparently stacked the kitchen with Lays crisps and Coca Cola.

Barron has no doubt been able to stock up on plenty of his favourite foods, too.

Due to his age, Barron is not as involved with public life as his older half-siblings Ivanka, Donald Jnr, Eric and Tiffany.

He is rarely pictured with his mother and father, usually only when stepping off Air Force One after traveling to and from Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s Florida resort.

However, he has participated in a few events such as the Easter Egg Roll, in which Barron watched his younger nieces and nephews compete.

White House children also usually attend the annual Turkey Pardon, which takes place around Thanksgiving, and the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in front of the White House grounds.

Once Barron is old enough, he may also attend White House State Dinners, like Malia and Sasha did in 2016.

If his father is reelected this year, Barron may well start to have an increasingly public role, but for now he is focusing on his schooling.

Barron’s education is another way in which he differs from previous White House children.

All the children of presidents over the past 35 years have gone to DC’s elite Quaker institution Sidwell Friends, and Sasha Obama is still in attendance.

However, Barron instead enrolled at the private St Andrew’s School in Potomac, Maryland.

Melania said in a statement: “We are very excited for our son to attend St Andrew’s Episcopal School.

“It is known for its diverse community and commitment to academic excellence.”

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