United States President Donald Trump on Sunday stepped out of a military hospital in Maryland, where he is being treated for the coronavirus, to greet his supporters. However, health experts and doctors rebuked the president for the “insane” surprise drive-by.

Video footage showed a mask-wearing Trump waving from behind the closed window of a black sport-utility vehicle. The president was accompanied by at least two other people during his surprise drive-by. After giving thumbs-up to his supporters who had gathered outside the Maryland facility, Trump returned to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

James Phillips, doctor of emergency medicine at George Washington University, who is an attending physician at Walter Reed hospital, called the move “insanity”.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary Presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die,” he tweeted. “For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity.”

That Presidential SUV is not only bulletproof, but hermetically sealed against chemical attack. The risk of COVID19 transmission inside is as high as it gets outside of medical procedures. The irresponsibility is astounding. My thoughts are with the Secret Service forced to play.

— Dr James P Phillips

Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University school of medicine and health services, called it the “height of irresponsibility”.

However, White House spokesperson Judd Deere defended the drive-by, claiming it had been “cleared by the medical team as safe”, reported The Guardian. Deere added that “appropriate precautions were taken in the execution of this movement to protect the president and all those supporting it, including PPE”.

Minutes before his drive-by, Trump posted a video on Twitter where he said he was at the “real school” now.

“This is the real school,” Trump said. “I get it and understand it. [It is] a very interesting thing and I’m going to be letting you know about it.” His outing, he said, was meant to “pay a little surprise” to his supporters. Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Friday.

Doctors have said that Trump may be discharged on Monday. “The president has continued to improve,” the White House physician, Sean Conley, told reporters in a briefing by the medical team on Sunday morning. “As with any illness, there are frequent ups and downs over the course.”

Brian Garibaldi, a member of the president’s medical team, said they hope to plan “for a discharge as early as tomorrow [Monday] to the White House”.