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Biden orders review of COVID origins as lab leak theory debated

Berita 24 English -  President Joe Biden directed aides to investigate the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, stating that US intell...

Berita 24 English - 
President Joe Biden directed aides to investigate the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, stating that US intelligence agencies are pursuing competing theories on Wednesday, which could include a laboratory accident in China.

Intelligence agencies weigh two plausible scenarios but remain unsure of their conclusions and are debating which is more likely, Biden said.

The findings were detailed in a report to Biden, who in March asked his team to determine whether the novel coronavirus "emerged as a result of human contact with an infected animal or as a result of a laboratory accident."

Biden's unusual public disclosure of classified US intelligence assessments revealed a raging debate within his administration over the origins of the novel coronavirus. Additionally, it lent credence to a theory that the virus originated in a Chinese research laboratory rather than in nature.

Late Thursday, China's embassy in the United States stated that politicizing the issue would obstruct investigations into the origins of COVID-19.

China supports "a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 discovered worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories located throughout the world," the embassy stated on its website in remarks attributed to a spokesperson.

The pandemic has claimed over 3 million lives worldwide and wreaked havoc on the global economy due to lockdowns and other measures to contain its spread. The virus's origins remain a point of contention among experts. The first confirmed cases occurred in December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

In a March report co-authored with Chinese scientists, a World Health Organization-led team spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February concluding that the virus was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via another animal, and that "introduction via a laboratory incident was considered an extremely improbable pathway."


Washington's frustration with China's alleged lack of cooperation in the international investigation has grown in recent weeks.

"I have now directed the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that may lead us closer to a conclusive conclusion and to report back to me in 90 days," Biden said.

"As part of that report, I requested additional areas of inquiry, including specific questions about China."

Since the government first identified COVID-19 as a serious health threat in early 2020, US agencies have investigated the virus's origins.

Earlier this week, US government sources stated that a still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump's administration claimed three researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019 and sought hospital care.

The source of that early intelligence or the degree to which US intelligence agencies regard it as reliable is unknown. According to one of the sources, it is unknown whether the afflicted researchers were hospitalized or their symptoms.

Senate and House intelligence committees are conducting investigations into how US government agencies reported on and gathered information about COVID-19's origin, spread, and response by governments.

Earlier this month, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a report focusing specifically on the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

According to the Republican report, "significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak" from the institute. The Wuhan lab may have been involved in biological weapons research, and Beijing attempted to "cover-up" the virus's origins.

Washington has urged the WHO to initiate the second phase of its investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

WHO emergency director Mike Ryan said Wednesday in Geneva that the agency expected to provide an update on its proposed next steps "in the coming weeks."

China's WHO delegation said Tuesday that it was urging "all parties" to "adopt an open and transparent attitude" to assist the WHO in tracing the virus's origin.

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