U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday said the U.S. intelligence community is divided on the question of where COVID-19 emerged from, including whether it came from human contact with an infected animal or a laboratory accident.
Biden said in a statement that he has called for further investigation into the pandemic’s origins.
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” Biden wrote in a statement.
“As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.”
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U.S. intelligence agencies have been examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory were seriously ill in 2019 a month before the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, according to U.S. government sources who cautioned on Monday that there is still no proof the disease originated at the lab.
The origin of the virus is hotly contested. In a report issued in March written jointly with Chinese scientists, a WHO-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that “introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.”
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A WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, asking about a follow-up mission, told Reuters on Monday that the agency was reviewing the recommendations from the report at the technical level.
“The technical teams will prepare a proposal for the next studies that will need to be carried out, and will present that to the Director-General for his consideration,” he said, referring to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
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Biden said the U.S. Intelligence Community has “‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion.”
In his statement, Biden also asked that the investigation include work by U.S. national labs and other agencies to help augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts, and keep U.S. Congress “fully apprised of its work.”
“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,” he said.
— with Global News files
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