White House blocks Fauci from testifying before Congress

(Photo: Xinhua)

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Xinhua) -- The White House on Friday blocked Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and central figure in the administration's response to the novel coronavirus, from testifying before Congress.

"While the [Donald] Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings," White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.

"We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time," the statement added.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been invited by a House Appropriations subcommittee to testify next week, as part of the subcommittee's probe into the Trump administration's response to the pandemic.

An outspoken expert on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Fauci has repeatedly stressed the need to take strict measures, including extending the federal government's social distancing guidelines, to contain the spread of the virus, at times correcting Trump's false claims as the president tried to downplay the severity of the situation.

The 79-year-old has been generally viewed as a reliable source of information by American people amid the pandemic.

A study released Wednesday by the University of Southern California's Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 45 percent of 1,000 adult Americans surveyed said they rely on Fauci for coronavirus information, leading all the other options.