Republican Senator Mitt Romney has criticised Donald Trump for what he called a lack of leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, labelling the president’s response to Covid-19 a "great human tragedy".
Mr Romney, the party’s defeated 2012 presidential candidate, lamented that the pandemic has become a “political issue” in an interview with CNN, adding that people are “unfortunately dying" because the message was not made clear to the public.
"Well, this [coronavirus] hasn't been the focus of his rhetoric, apparently, and I think it's a great human tragedy, without question," Mr Romney said when asked about the president’s attention on making claims about election fraud.
He pointed at a number of shortcomings, saying some states haven't had “mask mandates” and Washington did not had a “consistent plan and plea for people to wear masks” to reduce the virus from spreading.
"The extraordinary loss of life is heartbreaking -- and in some respects unnecessary. Not all respects, but we've relaxed our standards as individuals," the senator said.
Mr Romney levelled the accusations against Mr Trump as saw the US’s number of active hospitalisation from Covid pass 100,000 for the first time in the run-up to Christmas.
And the US set an alarming new record on Thursday, reporting almost 213,000 new coronavirus cases along with 2,500 deaths.
The criticism of Mr Trump came hot on the heels of president-elect Joe Biden announcing he would call on all Americans to wear a mask for his first 100 days in office, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"It's unfortunate that this became a political issue. It's not political," added Mr Romney.
"This is public health, and unfortunately we have not made that message clear enough to the American people, and people are dying because of it."
Meanwhile, Mr Biden has said he has asked Dr Fauci to stay on as part of his Covid response team and become a “chief medical adviser” to him in January when he becomes president. He also said he is willing to take the Covid-19 vaccine on television along with three former presidents of the country, to bolster public confidence in its safety.