15:54 GMT15 January 2021
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    Melania Trump, the first lady for the United States, is often ridiculed in social media, sometimes attracting angry reaction for her activities, although, in this case, Twitterians appear to be divided on her latest gaffe.

    Netizens expressed mixed reactions on Twitter while commenting on a video of US President Donald Trump's wife, Melania, taking her mask off before reading a book aloud at an event, reportedly breaking hospital policy regarding the necessity of mask wearing inside the facility amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    Melania Trump made her fourth annual visit to the Children's National Hospital in Washington DC on Tuesday, to read a book aloud to young patients and announce a bingo game, but once she sat down inside the atrium she removed her mask, seated in front of a small audience at a distance of at least several meters, with many of the meeting's participants attending virtually.

    Melania Trump expressed her gratitude and joy to visit the hospital and its young patients during the holiday season, before reading from Oliver the Ornament by Todd Zimmerman.

    "It is wonderful to be here. This is one of my favourite events during the holiday time, and I'm very excited and looking forward to reading a book", she said.

    According to reports, the first lady broke hospital safety guidelines which require a face mask be worn in "all public places, such as the hallway and cafeteria", "at all times when you are around other individuals".

    First lady Melania Trump reads a Christmas book called Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley and Joan and Abbey to Riley Whitney, 6, and Sofia Martinez, 8, right, children who are patients at Children's National Hospital, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Washington.
    © AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin
    First lady Melania Trump reads a Christmas book called "Oliver the Ornament Meets Marley and Joan and Abbey" to Riley Whitney, 6, and Sofia Martinez, 8, right, children who are patients at Children's National Hospital, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in Washington.

    Some Twitter users immediately responded with criticism towards Melania Trump's decision to read the book at an event without a mask, noting that it could endanger children at the hospital.

    Some users joked that the danger to kids was not obvious on video, so could be improved with additional drama.

    But many users observed that the spacious room in which the event took place looked almost empty, according to the video, and that Melania Trump was apparently at safe distance from anyone around her while she was not wearing her mask.

    ​One user hypothesized what would happen in the media, if the same situation happened to a previous first lady, Michelle Obama, or to the future presidential spouse, Jill Biden.

    As reported by CNN, in response to the many reactions, hospital spokeswoman Diana Troese cited DC health regulations, which do not require a person to wear a mask while giving a speech if the audience is at least 1.8 meters (6 ft) distant.

    "In the case of today's visit which was broadcast to our 325 patients, while the first lady did remove her mask while she read a story, she was more than 12 feet away from others in our large atrium. All other people in that space were wearing masks. The remainder of her visit, she wore a mask," Troese said, responding to a CNN request for comment.

    Melania Trump recovered, along with her husband, from a bout with the coronavirus infection in early October. Experts are not sure, however, how long antibodies offer protection, and still recommend wearing a mask, as remains the possibility of re-contracting the disease.


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