Dr Anthony Fauci has issued a blistering attack on former United States President Donald Trump's handling of coronavirus, accusing him of allowing "terrible" things to happen in the hopes of being re-elected.
Fauci, who is the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and has been the chief medical adviser to seven American Presidents, has detailed his time working with Trump in an interview with British newspaper the Telegraph.
During the early days of the pandemic Trump had been receptive to Fauci's advice on how to best tackle it.
But after it became apparent that lockdown and social-distancing measures would need to continue for the foreseeable future, hampering Trump's re-election campaign in the process, he became openly combative with Fauci.
By May, Trump was disagreeing with the infectious diseases expert at press conferences and blasting him on Twitter where unfounded conspiracies about Fauci also gained traction.
'When it became clear that in order to maintain my integrity and to get the right message [across] I had to publicly disagree with him, he did things – or allowed things to happen – that were terrible," Fauci said.
"Like he allowed Peter Navarro [Trump's trade adviser] to write an editorial in USA Today saying that almost everything I've ever said was wrong.
"He allowed the communications department of the White House to send out a list to all of the media, all of the networks, all of the cables, all of the print press, about all of the mistakes I've made, which was absolute nonsense because there were no mistakes."
In the last two months of his presidency, Trump had stopped any efforts to combat the pandemic, leaving scientists "acting almost alone, in the sense of without any direction", Fauci claimed.
Fauci now has armed federal agents guarding him at all times while his wife and adult children have also faced public harassment.
But what was most difficult for Fauci was coming to terms with the fact that Trump's actions resulted in avoidable coronavirus cases, the health expert said.
"When your main job is to save lives and alleviate suffering, and you see some of the things going on around you that are not only not alleviating suffering but are making things worse," Fauci said.
MASKS 'POSSIBLE' UNTIL 2022
Despite US President Joe Biden now overseeing an aggressive rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, Fauci believes it is "possible" Americans will still be wearing face masks in 2022.
During an interview on CNN's State Of The Union, Fauci said that any changes to mask mandates would depend on the levels of virus in the community.
"When it goes way down and the overwhelming majority of the people in the population are vaccinated, then I would feel comfortable in saying, you know, 'We need to pull back on the masks'," he said.
But he said the US would have a "significant degree of normality" once more people are vaccinated.
The country has recorded more than 28 million coronavirus cases and nearly 500,000 deaths from the disease.