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”.