Trump retweets call to fire top US infectious diseases expert, Latest World News - The New Paper

Trump retweets call to fire top US infectious diseases expert

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US President said to be unhappy with scientist's comments on slow response to coronavirus threat

WASHINGTON : US President Donald Trump retweeted a call to fire Dr Anthony Fauci after the nation's top expert on infectious diseases said lives could have been saved if the country had shut down sooner during the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Trump retweeted a message on Sunday from a former Republican congressional candidate who cited Dr Fauci's comments during a television interview on Sunday and tweeted "time to #FireFauci".

The Republican president in the past has repeated tweets critical of officials or enemies rather than make the criticism himself. The retweet fuelled speculation Mr Trump was running out of patience with the popular scientist and could conceivably fire him.

Dr Fauci has assumed national prominence as a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

He has contradicted or corrected Mr Trump on scientific matters during the crisis, including whether the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is effective against it.

Dr Fauci was asked on CNN's State of the Union about a New York Times report documenting early warnings issued to the White House about the coronavirus. The scientist acknowledged shutting the country down sooner could have saved lives, but cautioned that a number of factors were involved.

"Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don't think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor," Dr Fauci said. "It's very complicated."

Already a target of the far-right for his contradictions of Mr Trump, Dr Fauci drew more opprobrium after the comments.

Last week during the daily White House coronavirus briefing, Mr Trump stepped in and prevented Dr Fauci from answering a question about hydroxychloroquine.

The US recorded 1,514 deaths related to the pandemic over the previous 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8.30pm Sunday (8.30am yesterday, Singapore time).


The number of fatalities was lower than the previous day's toll of 1,920. The outbreak has now claimed the lives of at least 22,000 people in the US, the most of any country.

The US also leads the world in infections, with more than 555,300 by the Baltimore-based university's count.

The Trump administration sees May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Mr Stephen Hahn, said on Sunday.

But he cautioned that it was still too early to say whether that goal would be met.

"We see light at the end of the tunnel," Mr Hahn told ABC's This Week, adding, "Public safety and the welfare of the American people has to come first. That has to ultimately drive these decisions."

Dr Fauci said he was cautiously optimistic and pointed to the New York metropolitan area, which had its highest daily death toll last week but also saw a decrease in hospitalisations, intensive care admissions and the need to intubate critically ill patients.

"Once you turn that corner, hopefully you'll see a very sharp decline and then you can start thinking about how we can keep it that way," Dr Fauci said.

"If all of a sudden we decide 'OK, it's May whatever,' and we just turn the switch on, that could be a real problem." - AFP, REUTERS