Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Trump at the time of the initial Covid-19 outbreak, said he believes the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, and potentially began spreading as early as September 2019 after it “escaped,” but did not offer up evidence to support his assertions.
“If I was to guess,” Redfield told CNN in a clip that aired Friday, “this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October—in Wuhan.”
Redfield, who was replaced as CDC director in February after the Biden Administration took office, stated it’s “only opinion” and that “I’m allowed to have opinions now.” He added: “Science will eventually figure it out.”
Redfield did not provide any direct evidence or proof to support his claims during the snippet aired Friday.
The virologist noted in the interview, which was initially taped last month, he was “not implying any intentionality” or accusing China of intentionally discharging the deadly virus.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, who conducted the interview, wrote in a piece posted to CNN’s website Friday that Redfield said he had a private phone call with China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. George Gao, in early January 2020, in which Gao “became distraught and started crying after finding ‘a lot of cases’ among individuals who had not been to the wet market.”
Forbes reached out to the CDC office for comment but didn’t receive an immediate reply.
Some 15 months after Covid-19 first entered our collective consciousness, the virus’ origins remain a contentious topic worldwide, with no clear or universally accepted answer yet provided. A team of 34 experts (17 international scientists working alongside 17 researchers from China) assembled by the World Health Organization is expected to issue a comprehensive report shortly after spending four weeks on the ground in Wuhan examining and investigating the issue. On Friday, Chinese officials briefed diplomats ahead of the report’s release. According to the Associated Press, China’s deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Feng Zijian, said experts had analyzed four possible ways the virus arrived in Wuhan: a virus-carrying bat (a “reservoir host”) infected a human; a virus-carrying bat infected an animal (an “intermediary” host species), which later spread it to a human, via shipments of contaminated frozen food; and an accidental leak from a Wuhan laboratory. Feng claimed that the team of international and Chinese experts determined that the virus escaping from a lab was “extremely unlikely” and the least probable scenario. Dr. Vladimir Dedkov, an epidemiologist and deputy director of research at the St. Petersburg Pasteur Institute in Russia, told the AP that “there are no facts suggesting that there was a leak” from a laboratory.
What To Watch For:
The WHO report is expected to be released next week or in early April.
“I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human,” Redfield said, suggesting the immense strength of the virus lends credence to his belief it was developed in a lab. “It takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient in human-to-human transmission. I just don’t think this makes biological sense.”
2.7 million. As of Friday morning, more than 125,500,00 people worldwide have been infected by the coronavirus, and at least 2,756,100 people have died as a result.
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