The scientific director of Italy’s leading infectious diseases hospital says he would like to hire US immunologist Anthony Fauci if Donald Trump removes him from the White House coronavirus taskforce.
Giuseppe Ippolito, of Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital, wrote a letter to the Italian president and other officials, saying Italy should welcome Dr Fauci with open arms.
The country is the European epicentre of the pandemic, and Spallanzani treated Italy’s first patients.
Dr Ippolito praised Dr Fauci’s expertise, experience, leadership and “generous and selfless help” to Spallanzani and other hospitals around the world – “a generosity that we like to associate (with) his Italian heritage, always remembered with pride”.
He said removing Dr Fauci – director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – from the taskforce “would be disastrous news not only for the United States, but for the whole international community”.
Speculation about Dr Fauci’s fate swirled over the weekend after he told CNN that the US would have “obviously” saved lives if virus mitigation efforts had begun earlier.
Mr Trump responded by reposting a tweet that included the line: “Time to #FireFauci.”
On Monday, the president insisted Dr Fauci’s job was safe, but Republicans close to the White House say Mr Trump has complained about the immunologist’s positive media attention and has sought to leave him out of taskforce briefings.
Dr Ippolito said Italy would gladly welcome Dr Fauci’s expertise, citing his work on the Sars, HIV, Ebola and Zika outbreaks, and praised his training of a generation of doctors and nurses.
His work “has saved the lives of millions of women, men and children in the United States and all over the world”, the Italian added.
“We need Anthony Fauci’s leadership, in the US or elsewhere, to tackle the challenges this pandemic poses to our health systems,” Dr Ippolito wrote. “Our institute would be honoured to have Anthony as adviser and we hope that also the Italian government and the Lazio region could benefit (from) his great vision and expertise.”
The letter was addressed to President Sergio Mattarella, with copies sent to the Italian premier, health minister, foreign minister and local regional authorities.
The Spallanzani hospital issued the letter in Italian and English and sent it to news media along with a New Yorker profile of Dr Fauci.