The State Department’s closely watched investigation ended amid “concerns about the quality of its work,” CNN reported, citing three anonymous sources.
The investigation was launched last fall on Mr. Trump’s orders and led by an assistant to then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, looking to see if China’s biological weapons program was linked at the origin of the new virus in Wuhan.
The development comes as some of America’s top health officials have demanded a quick investigation into the origins of the coronavirus and amid new concerns over whether the virus has escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Tuesday that international experts should be allowed to independently investigate “the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak,” reported the Washington Post, during a ministerial meeting of the World Health Organization.
The most popular theory since the start of the epidemic is that the virus emerged from the meat of wild animals sold in a market in Wuhan. But the so-called “lab leak” theory, while widely rejected by experts, has been heavily pushed by American Republicans in the context of Mr. Trump’s rivalry with China.
A WHO team that visited various laboratories in China to investigate the source of the virus concluded in February that it was extremely unlikely that the virus would leak from the Wuhan laboratory.
But the problem resurfaced this week after a report from the le journal Wall Street said three Wuhan lab workers fell ill and were hospitalized in November 2019 shortly before the first reported cases of Covid.
The report cited previously undisclosed US intelligence findings, but was dismissed by Beijing officials who accused the US of “speculating on lab leaks.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top virologist, previously rejected the theory of lab leaks, but admitted after the WSJ report that he was not 100% “convinced” that Covid had developed naturally, arguing investigation.
“I think we should keep investigating what happened in China until we find out to the best of our ability what happened,” said Dr Fauci, who is the medical adviser in China. head of Mr. Biden.
The decision to dissolve the investigation launched by the Trump administration came after Biden officials were briefed on the team’s draft findings, with questions raised about the legitimacy of the findings.
But the Biden administration also says it remains “skeptical of Beijing’s role in restricting investigators from accessing information” that could be crucial to knowing the origin of the virus.
The State Department confirmed that U.S. intelligence agencies were continuing to examine the matter closely even as the investigation was halted.