Dr Fauci praises Australia’s coronavirus response and Melbourne’s face mask rules

Naaman Zhou
·2-min read

America’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, has praised Melbourne’s response to the coronavirus, saying he “wished” the US could adopt the same mentality.

In an interview hosted by the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne-based Doherty Institute, Fauci said Australia was “one of the countries that has done actually quite well” in handling the virus.

“I really wish that we could transplant that kind of mentality here,” he said. “Because masks in the United States have almost become a political statement.”

Related: How Melbourne embraced its first day of freedom – starting at the stroke of midnight

Fauci, who is the most senior member of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce, said that Melbourne’s lockdown and mandatory mask-wearing had struck the right balance between public health and opening up the economy.

“A couple of hours before I came to my home here to pick up this Zoom, I was at a meeting virtually in the situation room in the White House,” he said. “If I were to use the word ‘shutdown’ the country or ‘lockdown’, I would be in serious trouble. They would probably be throwing tomatoes at me or something.”

Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute, told Fauci: “We have universal mask-wearing in Melbourne, because you’re fined a thousand dollars if you are outside not wearing them.

“If you walk on the streets of Melbourne, 99.9% of people are wearing masks.”

Fauci replied that America should adopt the same “mentality”.

“In fact, people were ridiculed for wearing masks [in the US]. It depended upon what side of a particular political spectrum you were at, which is so painful to me as a physician and a scientist and a public health person.”

He continued: “I firmly believe that you can continue to open businesses, that you can continue to open up the country from an economic standpoint … but you could do it prudently … by public health measures that prevent surges of infection.”

As well as praising Australia’s response, Fauci also highlighted the worsening situation in the US.

“I would like to say the same for the United States,” he said. “But the numbers speak for themselves.

“We have almost nine million infections, 8.7 million infections. We have 225,000 deaths. And we are essentially still going on a day-by-day basis getting worse and worse.”

Asked by Melbourne University’s dean of medicine, Shitij Kapur, why Australia had been so successful, Fauci said Australia was “a gigantic island”.

“When you have a country like Australia, which is a gigantic island, it’s probably easier to contain in and out,” he said. “Whereas in the United States, that’s not the case.”