Ex-health official blames US’ initial Covid response


A former US federal health official has blamed the administration of former President Donald Trump’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying thousands of lives could have been saved if the government acted differently.

On Wednesday, Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) under the Trump administration, claimed he was sacked for opposing the former President’s push for a certain treatment for Covid-19, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Hundreds of thousands of lives in the US and around the world would be saved, people would still be alive today if our government had listened to the science, had been honest and truthful with Americans from the beginning, had told Americans the real risk of this virus and put tools and information and clear messaging out to help people save their lives and protect themselves from getting this virus,” Bright added.

BARDA is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), one of the agencies at the centre of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“If we had initiated testing, a really robust nationwide testing strategy to tell people where the virus was and tell people who were infected, if we had done more to prepare for the vaccine administration rollout when the vaccine became available,” said Bright, now president of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Bright, a virologist who led BARDA between 2016 and 2020, gave the remarks during an interview with CNN.

Following his removal in April last year, Bright filed a whistleblower complaint purporting that he was ousted because he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science”.

Bright and the HHS had settled the whistleblower complaint, reaching a financial agreement that compensated him for losses including salary, benefits and pension contributions after his abrupt removal, his lawyer said on Monday.

The incumbent Joe Biden administration also confirmd the settlement, thanking Bright in a statement issued by the HHS “for his dedicated public service and for the contributions he made to addressing the Covid-19 pandemic while he served as BARDA director”.

While the HHS under Trump denied any wrongdoing, allegations contained in Bright’s whistleblower complaint are now being investigated by the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistleblowers.