‘Keep Investigating’ COVID Lab Leak Theory
Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading national infectious disease expert and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), calls on China to release the medical records of nine workers in Wuhan as the world tries to determine the origins of the COVID -19 pandemic.
In an interview published in the Financial Time On Friday, Fauci said he “would like to see the medical records of the three people who allegedly fell ill in 2019,” adding: “Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?”
These files concern in particular three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, who would have fallen ill with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019.
The other six recordings Fauci is curious about date back to 2012, when a group of miners fell ill after entering a bat cave, three of which subsequently died. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute visited the same cave to take samples from the bats.
“What are the medical records of these [miners] say? Was here [a] virus in these people? What was that? ”Fauci asked.“ It is quite conceivable that the origins of Sars-Cov-2 are in this cave and that they started to spread naturally or passed through the laboratory.”
A definitive source has yet to be identified as the catalyst for the pandemic that has claimed nearly 3.7 million lives worldwide, but a possible lab leak was an early theory proposed by some, including the president of the era, Donald Trump.
At the start of the pandemic, Dr Fauci said he believed the virus was from an animal – likely a bat or pangolin – before mutating and jumping to humans, but left open the possibility that COVID -19 was designed in a laboratory.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what is out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning towards that could not have been manipulated artificially or deliberately, “said Fauci in a May 2020 interview with National Geographic. “Everything about the gradual evolution over time is a strong indication that [this virus] evolved in nature, then skipped species.
The laboratory leak theory has gained momentum in recent weeks, in part because President Joe Biden has ordered US intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic , including any possibility that the track could lead to a Chinese lab after months to minimize the possibility.
Soon after, China accused the Biden administration of playing politics and shirking responsibility by calling for a new investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic which was first detected in late China. 2019.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that President Joe Biden’s order shows that the United States “does not care about the facts and the truth, nor is it interested in a serious search for the scientific origin “.
Fauci himself still maintains that the virus has been transmitted from animals to humans, but acknowledged that renewed public interest should warrant further investigation.
“I always thought that the overwhelming probability – given our experience with Sars, Mers, Ebola, HIV, avian flu, the 2009 swine flu pandemic – was that the virus jumped out. ‘species, “Fauci told the Financial Times. “But we must continue to investigate until a possibility is proven.”
This is not a change of position on the part of the doctor, but simply another lead to discover the origins of COVID-19. But there are those who saw Fauci’s recently expressed support for a lab leak investigation as suspect, some wondering why he waited more than a year after the start of the pandemic to express such a view.
Those suspicions – which came mainly from Republican lawmakers – were reinforced when thousands of emails from Dr Fauci of the start of the pandemic were published.
A particular email came from Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, in April 2020, after Fauci publicly expressed his opinion that COVID-19 was not coming from a lab.
Daszak’s email read in part, “I just wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators, for standing publicly and stating that scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19. ‘a human overflow bat, not a lab exit from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. ”
Fauci replied, “Thank you very much for your kind note.”
The concerns stem from a $ 600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to EcoHealth Alliance over a five-year period, which was used to study coronavirus disease in bats at the Institute of Wuhan virology.
One of Fauci’s most vocal critics, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., Said the emails served as evidence that Fauci was trying to cover up the theory of a lab leak due to possible connections to the NIH .
But Fauci has repeatedly said the funds were not intended for ‘gain-of-function’ research, which he defined as’ taking a virus that could infect humans and make it more transmissible and / or pathogenic. for the man “.
“Are you really saying that we are involved because we gave $ 120,000 a year to a multibillion dollar institution for bat monitoring?” he told the Financial Times.
To be fair, it would be nearly impossible for Fauci – or any other U.S. official, for that matter – to infer what exactly these funds were spent on once dispersed, especially if the researchers chose to conduct experiments outside of the subsidies.
Fauci said so during a confrontation with Rand at a Senate committee hearing in May. At the time, the senator asked Fauci to say once and for all that there was no possible way the virus could have come from a lab.
“I have no account of what the Chinese may have done, and I fully support any further investigation into what happened in China,” Fauci said at the time. “However, I repeat: the NIH and NIAID categorically did not fund the ‘gain-of-function’ research to be conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki doubled down on those claims at a Friday briefing, saying, “We have never approved funding for the functional research gain in Wuhan.”
The Biden administration has long voiced its support for Dr Fauci, and Psaki has said that “the attacks on him are certainly something we will not support.”
Biden himself also reiterated his support for the doctor, telling reporters on Friday: “I am very confident in Dr Fauci.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.