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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Biden orders US intelligence to review coronavirus origins

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A team of global scientists, led by the World Health Organisation [WHO] were sent to Wuhan earlier this year to discover the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

US President Joe Biden has ordered aides to review the origins of the virus that caused the novel coronavirus and brought much of the world to a standstill.

In a White House statement on Wednesday, Biden said his national security adviser tasked the Intelligence Community in March to prepare a report on their analysis of the origins of the virus as well as theories regarding the transmission from human contact with an infected animal and claims of an alleged laboratory accident.

“I received that report earlier this month, and asked for additional follow-up. As of today, the US Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” said President Biden, adding that there is still no sufficient information on its origin.

The US also reported a lack of cooperation with China into the global investigation. As a response, Biden asked the Intelligence Community to “redouble” their efforts into the probe and to report back to him in “90 days”.

“The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” added Biden.

Read also: Qatar health expert joins WHO team in Wuhan to investigate COVID-19 origins

China’s embassy in the US later warned that politicising the pandemic would hinder investigations into the origins of the virus.

In a statement issued by the embassy on its website, China expressed its support for “a comprehensive study of all early cases of Covid-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world”.

Intelligence committees of both the US Senate and House of Representatives are also probing how American agencies reported on the virus, gathered information about its origin, how it spread and how governments have responded to it.

Earlier this month, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans issued a report focusing on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where former President Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three researchers were reportedly infected at the beginning of the outbreak.

The Republican report said that “significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the Covid-19 outbreak may have been a leak” from the institute, suggesting that the lab was involved in biological weapons research. The report also said that Beijing reportedly attempted to “cover up” the virus’ origins.

WHO investigation

Earlier this year, the WHO sent a group of 13 international specialists to central China, city of Wuhan, in a scientific field mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. The team consisted of 13 specialists: epidemiologist, virologist, clinicians and veterinary surgeons.

The WHO later issued a joint report in March written with Chinese scientists, saying that the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, dismissing the likelihood of being spread through a lab accident.

Washington also called for the WHO to open a second phase to its investigation on Covid-19′s origin.

WHO emergency director Mike Ryan also said that the agency is expected to provide an update on its proposed next steps “in the coming weeks”.

The Chinese delegation to the WHO is also calling on “all parties” to “adopt an open and transparent attitude” to cooperate with the global health body’s attempts to trace the virus’ origin.


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