White House Covid-19 infections could have been prevented: Top expert

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WASHINGTON : Top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci, whose advocacy of public health guidelines to fight the coronavirus has conflicted with President Donald Trump's downplaying of the pandemic, said on Tuesday the recent rash of infections at the White House could have been prevented.

Several close aides to Mr Trump and senior Republican politicians have tested positive for the coronavirus since the Republican president announced on Friday that he and First Lady Melania Trump had contracted the virus.

"Take a look at what happened this week at the White House," Dr Fauci said in an interview with American University's Kennedy Political Union, when asked what advice he had about how people could discuss preventive actions with relatives who believed the pandemic was a hoax.

"That is a reality, right there. And every day that goes by more people are popping up that are infected. It's not a hoax.

"It's an unfortunate situation when you see something like that because that could have been prevented," Dr Fauci said.

He has been a long-time advocate of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Trump returned to the White House on Monday from a military hospital where he spent three nights being treated for Covid-19, telling Americans "to get out there" and not let their lives be dominated by the virus.

He left hospital with a mask on but removed it to pose for pictures on the White House balcony and did not put it back on when he entered the building.

Mr Trump rarely wears a mask in public, and there is little social distancing at campaign rallies and White House events.

Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has ascribed a surge in infections in part to the country's failure to shut down completely.

More than 210,000 people in the US have been killed and more than seven million infected, more than in any other country.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, a top speechwriter for Mr Trump, on Tuesday became the latest Covid-19 case among Trump associates.

Others include close Trump adviser Hope Hicks and White House spokesman Kayleigh McEnany. - REUTERS