The former director of the CDC, Robert Redfield, says he believes COVID-19 ‘escaped’ from Wuhan lab in China and may have been circling as early as September 2019.
Redfield made the admission in a CNN interview on Friday but stressed it was his ‘opinion’.
It is the first time Redfield, who was appointed CDC director by President Trump, has stated publicly that he believes COVID-19 originated in a lab and not in a wet market where an initial cluster of cases was linked to.
‘I’m of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory… escaped. Other people don’t believe that, that’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,’ he said.
‘It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in laboratories to infect the laboratory worker.
‘That’s not implying any intentionality. It’s my opinion, right? But I am a virologist. I have spent my life in virology.’
The former director of the CDC , Robert Redfield, says he believes COVID-19 ‘escaped’ from a lab in Wuhan and may have been circling since September 2019
Researchers have said the global pandemic is believed to have started when COVID-19 jumped from a bat to a human or through an intermediary species at a wet market in Wuhan.
Redfield, however, says that explanation doesn’t make ‘biological sense’ to him.
‘I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human and at that moment in time the virus came to the human, became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human-to-human transmission,’ he said.
‘Normally, when a pathogen goes from a zoonot to human, it takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient.’
He believes it started in a lab that was already studying the virus, which would mean COVID-19 was being exposed to human cell cultures.
‘Most of us in a lab, when trying to grow a virus, we try to help make it grow better, and better, and better, and better, and better, and better so we can do experiments and figure out about it. That’s the way I put it together.’
Redfield also said he believes the virus started circulating in Wuhan as early as September 2019, which is several months earlier than the official timeline.
‘If I had to guess this virus started transmitting in September/October in Wuhan. That’s my view… I’m allowed to have opinions,’ Redfield said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, who is chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told a White House COVID briefing on Friday that Redfield’s comments about the Wuhan lab were just an opinion.
‘Obviously, there are a number of theories,’ Fauci said.
‘Dr Redfield was mentioning that he was giving an opinion as to a possibility, but again, there are other alternatives – others, that most people hold by.’
It is the first time Redfield, who was appointed CDC director by President Trump, has stated publicly that he believes COVID-19 originated in a lab and not in a wet market. Pictured above are researchers in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology
Redfield was appointed CDC director by President Donald Trump
The US was first informed of the new virus, then believed to be a mysterious cluster of pneumonia patients, in late December.
The debate about the origins have COVID-19 has been ongoing for the past year and has resulted in rising tensions between the US and China.
US investigators have been blocked from going to China in a bid to investigate the virus and its origins.
China has long resisted pressure for a full investigation and has touted theories that the virus might not have originated in Wuhan.
The World Health Organization has previously said the lab theory was ‘extremely unlikely’ but a team of its scientists that were finally allowed into Wuhan have still not been able to determine the origin of the virus more than a year into the pandemic.
Trump first started speculating that China may have released the virus in lab ‘mistake’ early last year.
He claimed to have seen evidence to support the theory that the origin was a Wuhan lab.
Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the ‘Chinese virus’ throughout his presidency.
More than 546,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19 since the pandemic broke out and there have been over 30 million confirmed cases across the country.
In January, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the WHO to fully investigate the possibility that the COVID-19 virus accidentally escaped from a Wuhan lab as he revealed new intelligence that he said raised troubling questions.
‘Beijing continues today to withhold vital information that scientists need to protect the world from this deadly virus, and the next one,’ Pompeo said.
Among the new US intel that he cited included a claim that researchers at the lab fell ill in the fall of 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, that scientists there were working with a bat coronavirus that is 96.2 percent similar genetically to the virus that causes COVID, and that the lab has secret links to the Chinese military.
Pompeo also revealed that researchers at the Wuhan lab had been studying a bat coronavirus known as RaTG13 since ‘at least 2016’.
The RaTG13 strain was identified by the Wuhan lab as its genetically closest sample to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, at 96.2 percent similarity.
The State Department said that the Wuhan lab obtained RaTG13 in a sample from a cave in Yunnan Province in 2013, after several miners there died of SARS-like illness.
Though the Wuhan lab has a published record of conducting ‘gain-of-function’ research on virus to enhance their lethality or transmissiblility, the State Department says the lab ‘has not been transparent or consistent about its record of studying viruses most similar to the COVID-19 virus, including RaTG13.’
Pompeo also asserted that despite ostensibly being a civilian institution, the Wuhan lab has worked on ‘secret projects with China’s military.’
‘The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017,’ Pompeo said.
He called on Beijing to allow the WHO investigation team free reign to pursue their inquiry, including access to the Wuhan lab.