STORY: Following reports that the U.S. Energy Department concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic likely arose from a leak at a Chinese laboratory, the U.S. ambassador to China on Monday said Beijing needed to be more honest about the origins of the deadly virus.
Nicholas Burns: “If we're going to do something to strengthen the World Health Organization, then we're going to have to push China to be more active in it and to, of course, be more honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the COVID 19 crisis.”
Those words - spoken by video link at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event - come after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Energy made what it described as a "low confidence" judgement in a classified intelligence report that COVID-19 likely arose from a Chinese lab.
China flatly denies that assessment.
Asked to comment on the report, China's foreign ministry referred to a WHO-China report that pointed to a natural origin, likely from bats, rather than a lab leak.
Dr. Michael Osterholm is the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota:
“Could it have been a spillover event from animals into humans directly? Could it have been a potential virus in the lab that unintentionally infected workers there that then spread it? You know, we'll never know… We have to assume that both possibilities are real and we have to plan for the future.”
Kirby:“There is not a consensus right now in the U.S. government about exactly how COVID started”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby on Monday faced questions about the reports.
Kirby: “I would add that one of the things the president did was he the one who tasked the national labs, which were put up through the Department of Energy to study this as well. So it wasn't just an effort that was confined to the intelligence community. That work is still ongoing.”
The Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment.