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In a White House statement released on Wednesday, Mr Biden said he’s asked the Intelligence Community to “redouble” its efforts in determining the exact origin of Covid-19 and how it led to a global pandemic, which has killed more than 3 million people worldwide.
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” the president said.
This inquiry would not just look into the origin of the virus, but it would also seek more answers from China about its involvement in the global pandemic.
“As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China,” Mr Biden said, adding that: “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.”
As of today, US intelligence has “coalesced around two likely scenarios,” according to the president’s statement.
One scenario, which was more widely accepted by the science community, was that the virus likely transferred from an animal to humans naturally. The other scenario was that the virus came from a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China.
This comes one day after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told the World Health Organization during an annual ministerial meeting that international experts should be given “the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”
The WHO convened a four-week investigation in collaboration with the Chinese government to determine the potential origins of Covid-19, with the findings released earlier this year.
At the time, the investigation concluded that while researchers didn’t yet know how the disease evolved, it was likely transferred from bats into humans – or from bats, to another animal, and then into humans.
This study from the WHO went on to argue that it was “extremely unlikely” the virus originated in the lab and then leaked to the public. But investigators acknowledged that reports of researchers contracting the virus in the lab went against the theory.
A US Intelligence report found that three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
It’s not clear if the researchers contracted Covid-19, but a US State Department fact sheet, issued in the final days of the Trump administration, said they experienced “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness.”
The lab has strongly denied the report, and scientists previously said the institute did not come in contact with Covid-19 until 30 December, 2019.
Then on Tuesday, CNN reported that the Biden administration shut down a discrete State Department operation, launched under President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to investigate the Wuhan lab theory.
Individuals involved in the probe, which reportedly started in the fall, told the publication that it was launched to determine if a biological weapons programme played a part in the global pandemic. But then debate started within the State Department on whether the investigation was initiated just so that Mr Trump could further place blame on China for Covid-19.
The investigation was later shuttered by the Biden administration after officials determined it wasn’t a good use of resources, according to the report.
The State Department has denied the report.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has long dismissed the lab leak theory. But, following the report from The Wall Street Journal, Dr Fauci said he’s not 100 per cent “convinced” that Covid-19 developed naturally.
“I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we find out to the best of our ability what happened,” Dr Fauci said this week.