Biden orders inquiry into origins of COVID-19

Ruben Fields
May 27, 2021

It remains unclear whether the afflicted researchers were hospitalized or what their symptoms were, one of the sources said.

He also directed national laboratories to assist with the investigation.

Biden asked USA intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days. The team also said that the virus had jumped from a pangolin to humans, but, there are chances that there was an intermediary animal.

He said that USA intelligence are looking into two different scenarios, that they do not have high confidence in their current conclusions and that they are divided on which is most likely.

"On the China lab leak hypothesis, the joint WHO-China study team report clearly states that "a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely". He gave investigators 90 days to report back. "That's why we've advocated very strongly that World Health Organization needs to go back and try again after the first phase of their investigation really satisfied nobody".

It also lent credence to a theory that the virus may have emerged from a Chinese research laboratory instead of in nature.

The report could become a raw topic ahead of a Group of 20 summit in October, an opportunity for Biden's first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Despite Biden's less hawkish language, the US-China relationship appears on the "same trajectory as his predecessor", says Capri of "systemic rivalry, defined by techno-nationalist and neo-mercantilist competition".

In his statement, Biden called on China to cooperate with investigations into the origins of the pandemic, but didn't echo calls from Republican lawmakers that Beijing should be held accountable if the virus escaped its lab.

The virus was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan and since then China has been chided for its lack of transparency.

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Biden's announcement also came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report of a previously undisclosed US intelligence report alleging three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology were sick enough to seek hospital care in November 2019.

Residents wearing face masks pay for groceries by standing on chairs to peer over barriers set up to ring fence a wet market on a street in Wuhan, Hubei province, the epicenter of China's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, April 1, 2020.

Fort Detrick hosts elements of the country's United States biological defense program. The report said there was "no reporting of Covid-19 compatible respiratory illness during the weeks/months prior to December 2019, and no serological evidence of infection in workers through SARS-CoV-2-specific serology-screening".

"Phase 2 of the COVID origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give global experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak", he said.

"Similar research needs to be done if we are going to find the true wildlife origin" of covid-19, said Daszak, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance.

According to Biden, agencies are now split over the two possible sources for the virus that swept the planet over the past year, killing more than 3.4 million people - a figure experts say is undoubtedly an underestimate. The White House criticized the report as incomplete and lacking crucial data, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it wasn't "extensive enough" and that the lab-leak theory needed more investigation. The lab-leak theory, which experts have said in the past was not likely, has come under increasing scrutiny.

Calls to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, especially the lab-leak theory, have grown.

The general said his opinion had not changed from a year ago, when he said the "weight of evidence seems to indicate natural, but we don't know for certain".

Biden said, he received a report from the intelligence committee, wherein it showed that they were divided over the origins of the pandemic. Lindsey Graham, another Republican, has pushed for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus and called Wednesday for pre-emptive sanctions on China.

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