Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said COVID-19 could have been created in a lab and then leaked into the public.
Fauci’s comments Thursday are just the latest but perhaps most definitive statement he has made expressing openness to the lab leak theory as he prepares to retire at the end of the month, although he also said an animal-to-human spillover was the most likely scenario.
“There’s also the possibility, and that’s the reason why we all need to keep an open mind that we don’t know precisely what the origin is, it could have been something like studying a virus that they got out of the environment and perhaps … leaked out into the community,” Fauci said in an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday. “I don’t think that’s what happened but my mind is completely open to any possibility.”
Fauci indicated that the more likely scenario was that the COVID-19 pandemic was a natural occurrence originating from an animal such as a bat, while criticizing the Chinese for allowing wild animals into a market in Wuhan when it was dangerous for humans, citing photographic evidence of the animals at the markets around the beginning of the pandemic.
Fauci has maintained that the virus likely occurred naturally, but in recent interviews has also said that he is keeping an “open mind” regarding its origins.
Fauci has indicated he plans to appear at any congressional oversight hearings to which he is asked to testify after he steps down this year amid several GOP leaders signaling they plan to conduct investigations into the Biden administration’s pandemic spending and the origin.
A Senate Republican report issued in October concluded that the virus most likely originated in a lab, but that a lack of cooperation by the Chinese government makes it impossible to know for sure.