The Biden administration is now singing a refrain that’s reminiscent of the days when former President Donald Trump was in the White House: China is not playing nice with the rest of the world regarding the coronavirus.
At separate briefings on Tuesday, White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt and White House press secretary Jen Psaki signaled the administration’s dissatisfaction with China’s efforts to date.
“It is our position that we need to get to the bottom of this, and we need a completely transparent process from China. We need the WHO to assist in that matter,” Slavitt said at a White House briefing on COVID-19, referring to the World Health Organization. “We don’t feel like we have that now.
“We need to get to the bottom of this, whatever the answer may be, and that’s a critical priority for us.”
Although Psaki said the administration wants an outside party to investigate the origins of the virus, she added that Biden wants China to “be more transparent.”
“So, the president believes there needs to be an independent investigation, one that’s run by the international community. It’s an international pandemic that’s killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” she said during her daily briefing.
“He believes the Chinese need to do more to put forward data, to be more transparent,” Psaki said. “And in the second phase of this effort, he’s certainly hopeful that will be the case. And he believes that every theory should be explored through that process but that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions before that data and that information is made available.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House adviser on COVID-19, also indicated at the briefing with Slavitt that unanswered questions about the virus’ origins should be resolved.
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“As I’ve said many time: Many of us feel that it is more likely that this is a natural occurrence, as has happened with SARS-CoV-1, where it goes from an animal reservoir to a human. But we don’t know 100 percent the answer to that,” Fauci said during the briefing.
“And since this is a question that keeps being asked, we feel strongly — all of us — that we should continue with the investigation and go to the next phase of the investigation that the WHO has done,” he said.
“So, because we don’t know 100 percent what the origin is, it’s imperative that we look and we do an investigation. And that’s how we feel right now.”
Fauci had been asked in a recent interview if he still fully subscribed to the theory that the virus developed naturally, as China claims.
“No, actually. … No, I’m not convinced about that. I think that we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability exactly what happened,” he said about 13 minutes into the PolitiFact interview on May 11.
“Certainly, the people who’ve investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could’ve been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus,” Fauci said.
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However, a year ago, when Trump and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were saying that they believed the virus was man-made, Fauci ridiculed them.
He was asked during a May 2020 National Geographic interview whether there was evidence “that SARS-CoV-2 was made in the lab in China or accidentally released from a lab in China.”
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated — the way the mutations have naturally evolved,” Fauci responded.