The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is calling for an open investigation into the origins of COVID-19 in China as new information raises questions about the timing of the virus' discovery.

The coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. However, new reports claim that several researchers at the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab were hospitalized in November 2019, CNN reported.

The director of the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab told Chinese state media Monday that the information, based in a U.S. intelligence report, was a “complete lie” More information will be released Monday by the China Foreign Ministry in a daily briefing at 3 p.m. local time, CNN said.

"Those claims are groundless," Yuan Zhiming, lab director at the Wuhan National Biosafety Lab, told nationalist tabloid Global Times. "The lab has not been aware of this situation, and I don't even know where such information came from."

The news comes after Fauci began calling for an open investigation into the virus' origins. At the United Facts of America: A Festival of Fact-Checking event on May 11, he said he was “not convinced” that COVID-19 developed naturally and wanted to see an open investigation into the virus’ origins to see what happened in China, Fox News reported.

Fauci, who also sits on the White House coronavirus taskforce, continued by saying,” I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened.

"Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have 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," he added.

This is not the only time that Fauci has been asked about the origins of COVID-19. On Tuesday, Sen. Ran Paul asked him during a Senate hearing if he could “categorically say that the COVID-19 virus could not have occurred by serial passage in a laboratory,” Fox News said.

Fauci replied by saying, “I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I'm fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China. However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain of function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Paul claims funding through the National Institutes of Health has been given to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is thought have played a part in the initial outbreak of COVID-19. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.

Fauci’s comments at the United Facts of America event are a departure from his previous comments from the direction as back in May 2020 he dismissed the possibly of a lab leak.

“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated," he told National Geographic at the time.“Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

China has reported 102,000 cases of the coronavirus with over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In comparison, the U.S. has reported over 33 million coronavirus cases and over 589,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Dr Fauci
Dr. Anthony Fauci is pictured. AFP / MANDEL NGAN