White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci threw cold water on the theory that the novel coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab — contradicting what President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been saying, according to a report.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” Fauci told National Geographic in an exclusive interview.
“Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.
He added that he doesn’t believe “an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.”
The top US infectious diseases expert’s statements contradict an April 30 comment by Trump that he had seen convincing evidence that the deadly bug originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
On Sunday, Pompeo told ABC News that there was “enormous evidence” the virus originated in the lab in Wuhan — where the outbreak emerged in December — but he did not provide details to support the claim.
“Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running sub-standard laboratories,” said Pompeo, a former CIA, adding that he did not think the virus was man-made or genetically modified.
The US intelligence community last week said it “concurred” that the virus “was not man-made or genetically modified,” but added that it would “continue to examine” whether the outbreak began via “contract with infected animals, or if it was the result of an accident” at the Wuhan lab, the BBC reported.
Responding to Pompeo’s comments, China’s state-owned Global Times said in an editorial Monday that top US diplomat had “stunned the world with groundless accusations.”
The World Health Organization says the White House claims are “speculative” and that it has seen no “specific evidence,” according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Fauci said in his National Geographic interview that he is most concerned that the US will be hit in the fall and winter by a second wave of the illness if it does not blunt the infection rate soon.
“Shame on us if we don’t have enough tests by the time this so-called return might occur in the fall and winter,” he said.
Dr. Anthony FauciAP/Evan Vucci
“I don’t think there’s a chance that this virus is just going to disappear,” Fauci added. “It’s going to be around, and if given the opportunity, it will resurge.”
But Fauci said he is optimistic that a vaccine will be ready within an historically short period of time and that one promising candidate may move into advanced clinical trials early this summer.