Washington – President Biden said on Wednesday he had ordered the US intelligence community to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins ofafter a new report fueled questions about whether the virus .
Mr Biden said in a statement he was giving the intelligence community 90 days to “collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” on the starting point of COVID-19 and report back to them. As part of the requested report, the president requested additional areas of investigation that may be needed, including specific questions for China. Mr Biden said the effort will include the work of the Department of Energy’s national laboratories and other government agencies to complement the intelligence community in its investigation.
Mr Biden said he received a report from the intelligence community earlier this month exploring whether COVID-19 emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident, but agencies are divided.
“To date, the US intelligence community has ‘coalesced around two probable scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this issue,” the president said. “Here is their current position: ‘While two elements of IC lean towards the first scenario and one leans more towards the second – each with low or moderate confidence – the majority of elements feel that there is no not enough information to assess one. more likely than the other. “”
Mr Biden lamented that the Trump administration’s failure to bring US field inspectors to China in the early months of the pandemic “will always hamper any investigation” into the origins of the virus.
The United States will also continue to work with like-minded partners around the world to pressure China to participate in a full, transparent and evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence, ”said the president.
Suspicions about the origins of COVID-19 arose again this week after the Wall Street Journal reported three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China requested hospital treatment in November 2019 after falling ill. China reported the first cases of COVID-19 in December 2019.
CBS News has learned that some government officials familiar with confidential briefings about the coronavirus pandemic have become more open to the theory that the virus originated in a laboratory, a prospect also suggested by Trump administration officials. When asked if the report cited by the Wall Street Journal was correct, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday “we have no way of confirming or denying it.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Mr Biden, told CBS News earlier this week that he believes it is “highly likely” that the virus has occurred naturally in the environment and is spreading through transmission from animal to human, but that it is open to a “good thorough investigation” of the origins.
The World Health Organization conducted its own examination of the origins of COVID-19, but determined that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” The White House, however, questioned the process used to reach these conclusions, and Senior Press Assistant Karine Jean-Pierre stressed on Wednesday that the Chinese government must release data and information.
“China has not been transparent enough,” she said Wednesday during the White House press briefing. “We have been saying that for a very long time, that China had to provide better access to the laboratory, to cooperate more fully with scientific researchers, and we do not believe that they have met that standard.”
More than 3.4 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19, including more than 591,000 in the United States
Weijia Jiang contributed to this report.