Covid: Dr Scott Atlas - Trump's controversial coronavirus adviser - resigns

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President Donald Trump listens as Dr Scott Atlas speaks to reporters at the White House, September 2020Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Scott Atlas (left) joined the Trump team in August

US President Donald Trump's controversial special adviser on the coronavirus, Scott Atlas, has resigned.

Thanking Mr Trump for the honour of serving the American people, Dr Atlas said he had "always relied on the latest science and evidence without any political consideration or influence".

During his four months in the role, Dr Atlas questioned the need for masks and other measures to control the pandemic.

He also repeatedly clashed with other members of the coronavirus task force.

The radiologist and senior fellow at Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution joined the task force in August. As well as questioning the usefulness of masks he was against lockdowns and supported herd immunity as a strategy to deal with the outbreak.

He sparked further controversy last month when he tweeted "people rise up" in response to new restrictions imposed in Michigan.

His tweet came just weeks after it emerged the state's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, was the subject of an alleged kidnapping attempt by militia members opposed to virus mitigation efforts.

Public health officials - including top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci - had accused Dr Atlas of giving President Trump misleading information about the spread of the virus.

After Dr Atlas' resignation, Dr Fauci told the BBC that the current situation in the US was worse than at any time since the start of the outbreak. "The slope of our curve is very steep so that every day it seems we almost break a new record," he said.

As of Sunday, the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in November in the US surpassed four million, double the figure recorded in October.

Academics at Stanford University welcomed Dr Atlas' resignation, saying it was "long overdue and underscores the triumph of science and truth over falsehoods and misinformation".

In his resignation letter, carried by Fox, he said his advice had "always focused on minimising all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and poor".

Media caption,

"We're at war with a virus, not with one another": President-elect Biden calls on Americans to unite against Covid-19

He also spoke of the "free exchange of ideas that lead to scientific truths", adding: "Indeed, I cannot think of a time where safeguarding science and the scientific debate is more urgent."

President-elect Biden has taken a markedly different stance to his predecessor, urging everyone to wear masks and pledging a "bedrock of science" to his policy on tackling the pandemic.

The US has recorded more than 13 million coronavirus cases and more than 266,000 people have died.

Millions failed to heed scientists' appeals to stay at home during the Thanksgiving holiday, prompting Dr Fauci to warn the US could see "surge upon surge" of cases as people travel back.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to discuss the rollout of a vaccine with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices this week, a move which Dr Fauci said offered a "light at the end of the tunnel".