WASHINGTON -- If Chinese officials had been transparent about the novel coronavirus at the beginning, the world would be in a much better position right now to battle COVID-19, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading figure in the world's efforts to defeat the pandemic.
An estimated 1.3 million people have been infected with COVID-19 worldwide with almost 70,000 deaths, and the numbers are climbing quickly.
In an interview with PBS Newshour on April 3, Fauci, who has been director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and is now part of the special US coronavirus task force, spoke at length about the first few weeks of the outbreak.
The following is part of that interview. Please see full interview here.
Judy Woodruff (reporter):
When did you first have a sense that this was different, that what had happened was not just another virus, that this one was going to be something more serious, much more serious?
Well, somewhere in early January, when it became clear that what the Chinese had claimed originally, that this was just a virus that jumped from an animal reservoir to a human, and wasn't being transmitted from human to human, well, it became very clear pretty quickly that that was not the case, that this was a virus that was being transmitted from human to human.
I think you're aware of reporting that the Chinese were not transparent about all this in the very beginning. The question now that's arising, though, is, people are asking, if they had been more transparent in the very beginning, would it have prevented the spread of this virus, period, or would it have simply given more countries more time to prepare?
Well, Judy, I don't think anything would have prevented the spread of this virus. Once it emerged into society, with its capability of efficient spread and morbidity and mortality, that was it.
But what could have been different — and this is something that people are going to reflect on, you know, when this is all over, as they try and analyse what actually happened — is that, if we had known that this was highly transmissible early on, when it was just in China, I think other countries would have maybe been more quick on the trigger to try and inhibit travel from China to their country, because, remember, it started in China.
And then China, by the fact that there are so many Chinese people, and travel is part of our daily existence in this planet, that there would maybe have been more attention paid to the possibility that just pure travel from China in general, but certainly from Wuhan and the Hubei district, is something that could start an outbreak throughout the world.
So, that delay in transparency, I think, likely had an impact on what I just said, the awareness that this could seed the rest of the world.
All that points right back to Chinese officials, doesn't it?
Looks that way.