Anthony Fauci, the US president's chief medical adviser, has urged China to release the medical records of nine people, which may shed light on whether the coronavirus first emerged as the result of a lab leak. Fauci also serves as head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The records in question pertain to three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology who reportedly fell ill in November 2019, and six miners who became sick after entering a bat cave in 2012. Wuhan researchers subsequently visited the cave to take samples from the bats, while three of the miners passed away.
In an interview with the newspaper the Financial Times (FT), Fauci said that he continues to believe the coronavirus was first transmitted to humans via animals, arguing that even if the Wuhan scientists did have COVID-19, they could have contracted the disease from the wider population.
"I have always felt that the overwhelming likelihood — given the experience we have had with SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], MERS [Middle East respiratory syndrome], Ebola, HIV, bird flu, the swine flu pandemic of 2009 — was that the virus jumped species. But we need to keep on investigating until a possibility is proven", Biden’s chief medical adviser stressed.
He rejected the idea of NIAID possibly being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, "Are you really saying that we are implicated because we gave a multibillion-dollar institution $120,000 a year for bat surveillance?"
Fauci Says Emails About COVID-19's Origins 'Taken Out of Context'
The interview comes after Fauci asserted that recent revelations suggesting he was warned at the very outset of the pandemic that COVID-19 may have been "engineered" had been "taken out of context".
The remarks followed the emergence of more than 3,200 pages of what BuzzFeed described as the chief medical adviser's emails dating back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. The alleged emails reportedly covered the period between January 2020 and June 2020, showing how Fauci dealt with the massive flow of information as the COVID pandemic began to ravage the US.
In one of the alleged emails, Peter Daszak, the head of a nonprofit with ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, reportedly thanked Fauci for downplaying the possibility of COVID-19 having escaped from a lab.
Late last month, President Joe Biden gave his country's intelligence agencies 90 days to obtain and analyse more information on the origins of COVID-19, also vowing to prod China to "participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence".
The former Trump administration had repeatedly claimed the disease may have originated in a Wuhan lab, with the 45th US president referring to COVID-19 as the "China virus" and Beijing rejecting the allegations.