When Republicans take control of the House in January, they plan to look to investigate matters related to COVID-19, including its origin, and Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed that it is worthwhile to uncover what caused the pandemic.
Speaking to the Washington Post in a livestreamed interview on Thursday, Fauci was asked about the expected GOP-led hearings, and while he disagrees with the idea shared by some Republicans that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China, he said it would be beneficial to know for sure what happened.
"I think it's very important," Fauci said. "As you know there's this debate of whether it is a lab leak from something that was going on in a Chinese lab or a natural occurrence."
Fauci went on to state that data in peer reviewed journals "strongly indicate but don't absolutely prove" that it came from a natural occurrence, specifically going from a bat, to an "intermediary host," and then to a human. He then acknowledged that "there's also the possibility … 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 having it leaked out into the community."
While Fauci said he does not think that is what happened, his "mind is completely open to any possibility."
Fauci then explained why it is important to learn the origin of COVID-19, regardless of what it is.
"When you know what it is, it helps you to prepare for the next one," Fauci said. For example, he said that when the 2002 SARS outbreak took place and they learned that it was the result of an animal being brought into wet markets, this "should have triggered us to put really important and definitely restrictions on bringing animals like that into a market." Fauci said that China "supposedly" put these restrictions in place, but that there is photo evidence showing that they were not followed.
Fauci then described what steps could be taken if the lab leak theory is proven true.
"If it turns out that it's a lab leak, then you want to do everything you can to have a lot of restrictions and guidelines about the kinds of things that could be done in the lab," he said.
Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is stepping down from his position this month after serving in the role since 1984.