Dr Anthony Fauci was asked whether he was fully convinced with the theory that the virus “developed naturally.”(Bloomberg)
Dr Anthony Fauci was asked whether he was fully convinced with the theory that the virus “developed naturally.”(Bloomberg)

Why is Chinese state media targeting Fauci amid Wuhan lab controversy? All you need to know

  • The theories over the origins of coronavirus have been contested since the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak as many experts suggested a possible laboratory accident in Wuhan.
By hindustantimes.com | Written by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 26, 2021 03:44 PM IST

The recent remark by top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci on the origins of novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has drawn the ire of the Chinese state media. Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, wrote a blistering opinion piece on Tuesday, accusing Dr Fauci of attempting to hype “the old and groundless narrative” of coronavirus leaking from a Wuhan laboratory. “In terms of expertise and influence, American experts such as Fauci can hardly match Chinese top experts,” wrote Hu.

“American experts are weaker than their Chinese counterparts in understanding the epidemic and influencing the anti-virus fight,” he added.

The theories over the origins of coronavirus have been contested since the early days of the outbreak as many experts suggested a possible laboratory accident in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the first epicentre of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. But a global study, convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), deemed it “extremely unlikely”.

Why is Dr Fauci 'not convinced'?

An international team of experts, who visited Wuhan in January to probe the origins of the virus, identified two most likely scenarios that might have caused SARS-CoV-2 transmission to the human population, including the one involving intermediary host species. At a virtual event titled ‘United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking’, Fauci was asked whether he was fully convinced with the theory that the virus “developed naturally.”

"I am not convinced...I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favour of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus," he added.

Watch | ‘Not 100% sure Covid-19 developed naturally’: Dr Anthony Fauci

US intelligence report on Wuhan lab

While the comments by Fauci were made on May 11, the footage of the event gained traction after The Wall Street Journal, citing US intelligence, reported that three scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised in November 2019. The report was followed by the United States demanding a “transparent” second phase of investigation into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and the route of introduction to the human population.

"Phase 2 of the Covid origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak," US health secretary Xavier Becerra said in a video message at the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA).

Another Global Times article called The Wall Street Journal report “an outright lie that came from nowhere.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had not been exposed to Covid-19 before December 30, 2019, and there has been a "zero-infection" record among its staff and graduate students so far. “What is the real purpose for the US to continue to play up the so-called "lab leak theory"? Does it really care about the origin-tracing of the virus or just wants to divert attention?” Zhao asked rhetorically at a press conference.

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