Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says he received death threats after he publicly said he believed the coronavirus “escaped” from a lab in Wuhan, China.
“Certainly a lab-based origin is one possibility,” Dr Walensky told CNBC in May.
“I was threatened and ostracized because I proposed another hypothesis,” Mr Redfield told Vanity Fair in a story published on Thursday. “I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science.”
Mr Redfield told CNN in March that he believed the virus “most likely” originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where scientists were studying coronaviruses.
“I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely ideology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory,” he said then. “Escaped. Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out.”
Mr Redfield stressed that he was “not implying any intentionality,” but believed a Chinese virologist probably contracted the virus by accident and then unknowingly transmitted it outside the lab.
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker,” he said.
The comments flew in the face of the more mainstream explanation, which was that the virus originated at a Wuhan wet market and passed from an animal, possibly a bat, to humans.
“I think what he likely was expressing is that there certainly are possibilities … of how a virus adapts itself to an efficient spread among humans,” Dr Fauci said in March.
“One of them is in the lab. And one of them – which is the more likely, which most public health officials agree with – is that it likely was below the radar screen, spreading in the community in China for several weeks, if not a month or more, which allowed it when it got recognised clinically to be pretty well-adapted.”
But the so-called “lab leak” theory has gained traction in recent weeks. President Biden has ordered his intelligence officials to further investigate the origins of Covid-19, including the possibility that it came from a Chinese laboratory.
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” the president said on 26 May.
Meanwhile, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, has demanded a more extensive report on the pandemic’s beginning, and insists that all hypotheses “remain on the table.”
Mr Redfield is no longer the CDC’s director. But his successor, Dr Rochelle Walensky, has not ruled out the lab theory either.
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