In an interview on Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that false information about China’s coronavirus outbreak was “propagated right from the beginning” and misled countries about when human-to-human transmission began.
Fauci said China’s initial assessments of coronavirus as a virus predominantly spread from animal-to-human contact caused him and others to misunderstand the severity of illness. Fauci offered his critical assessment during an interview on Fox News’ “Watters’ World” with host Jesse Watters.
Fauci said Chinese authorities claimed through January that coronavirus cases were only occurring as a result of contact between an animal and a human. When indications of human-to-human transmission appeared, China suggested spread was very inefficient.
“And then, when there were human cases that looked like they were transmitted, that it was very inefficiently transmitted,” Fauci said. “At the time, I believe in mid-January, that we made the statement that if, in fact, that’s true, that this is mostly animal-to-human, that we’re not in China and it’s very inefficiently spread that, in fact, it may not be something that is a major threat outside of China.”
Fauci said the Trump administration took action based on the information that it had at the time.
“When it became clear that not only is it transmitted efficiently from human to human, but that it was very, very contagious in the sense of easily transmittable, and it also had a high degree of morbidity and mortality. At that point, it became very clear that we were in for a problem because we were getting travel cases from China,” Fauci said. “And even though we cut off the Chinese pretty quickly, once it seeded in this country, then it does what any highly transmissible virus does. So there’s nothing inconsistent about the information we had.”
Fauci went on to raise his latest assessment, that human-to-human transmission was occurring in China at some point in mid-December.
“Early on we did not get correct information and the incorrect information was propagated right from the beginning because, you know, when the first cases came out that were identified, I think on December 31 in China, and we became aware of this,” Fauci said. “They said this was just animal to human, period. Now, we know retrospectively that there was ongoing transmission from human to human in China, probably at least a few weeks before then.”
He said once cases of the coronavirus began appearing in the U.S., it became clear that the infection was far more contagious than China had let on.
“Who’s ever fault that was, we’re going to take a look at that when this is all over, but clearly that was not the right information that was given to us,” Fauci said.
Fauci’s assessment that China had human-to-human cases as far back as mid-December adds to other reports that the Chinese government ordered early samples of the virus destroyed and that they jailed and interrogated doctors and whistleblowers who warned about the severity of the disease early on.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also come under scrutiny amid accusations it insufficiently studied the coronavirus when the outbreak began, and instead advanced Chinese claims about the virus, which helped hide its severity.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
Up through mid-January, WHO continued to share Chinese assessments that there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
To date, the coronavirus epidemic has expanded to 185 countries and nearly 2 million cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus case tracking map. More than 120,000 cases have been fatal.