Biden asks U.S. intelligence officials to investigate origin of COVID-19 –

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Biden asks U.S. intelligence officials to investigate origin of COVID-19 – fr


WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered US intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility that the trail could lead to a Chinese laboratory.

After months of downplaying this possibility as a fringe theory, the Biden administration is joining global pressure to make China more open to the epidemic, in a bid to fend off GOP complaints that the president is not. was not hard enough and take the opportunity to lobby. China on an alleged obstruction.

Biden asked U.S. intelligence agencies to report within 90 days. He asked US national labs to help with the investigation and the intelligence community to prepare a list of specific queries for the Chinese government. He called on China to cooperate with international polls on the origins of the pandemic.

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus originated from a lab accident rather than naturally through human contact with an infected animal in Wuhan, China.

Biden in a statement said the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around these two scenarios but “doesn’t think there is enough information to assess either as more likely than the ‘other’. He revealed that two agencies lean towards animal bond and “one lean more towards” lab theory, “each with low or moderate confidence.”

“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, ”Biden said.

Her statement came after weeks the administration struggled to avoid a public discussion of the lab leak theory and privately suggesting it was far-fetched.

Another sign of a change in attitude, the Senate unopposed approved two amendments related to the Wuhan lab, tying them to a largely independent bill aimed at increasing US investment in innovation.

One of the amendments, from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Would block US funding for Chinese “gain-of-function” research on improving the severity or transmissibility of a virus. Paul criticized Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, and questioned him aggressively during a recent Senate hearing on labor in China. The other amendment came from Senator Joni Ernst of the Iowa GOP and would prevent any funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Both were approved without a recorded vote as part of the larger bill which is still being debated in the Senate.

As to the origin of the pandemic, Fauci, a White House coronavirus adviser, said on Wednesday that he and most other members of the scientific community “believe the most likely scenario is that it s This was a natural occurrence, but no one knows 100% for sure. . “

“And since there is a lot of worry, a lot of speculation and since no one knows for sure, I think we need the kind of investigation where there is open transparency and all the information available, to be made available,” to consider, ”Fauci said during a Senate hearing.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that the White House supported a new World Health Organization investigation into China, but added that an effective investigation “would finally require China intensifies and authorizes the access necessary to determine the origins ”.

Biden has always raised the possibility that a firm conclusion will never be reached, given the Chinese government’s refusal to fully cooperate with international investigations.

“The inability to bring our inspectors to the field during these first months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19,” he said.

Administration officials continue to have strong doubts about the theory of laboratory leaks. Rather, they see China’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation – especially on something of this magnitude – as emblematic of other irresponsible actions on the world stage.

Privately, administration officials say the end result, if ever known, will not change anything, but note that China’s stone wall is now on display to the world.

The State Department, which this spring ended a Trump-era investigation into Chinese laboratory theory, said it continues to cooperate with other government agencies and urged China to cooperate with the world.

“China’s position that its role in this investigation is comprehensive is disappointing and at odds with the rest of the international community which is working collaboratively at all levels to end this pandemic and improve global health security,” said said spokesperson Ned Price.

Research into the origins of the virus is of critical importance, said Arinjay Banerjee, virologist at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization of Saskatchewan, Canada, because: “If you don’t know where it came from , how are you going to stop it? to spread it again? “

“The high probability is always that this virus came from a wildlife reservoir,” he said, pointing out that contagion events – when viruses pass from animals to humans – are common in nature, and that scientists already know about two beta coronaviruses that evolved in bats and caused epidemics when humans were infected, SARS1 and MERS. “The evidence we have so far suggests that this virus originated from wildlife,” he said.

However, the case is not completely closed. “There are probabilities, and there are possibilities,” Banerjee said. “Because no one has identified a virus that is 100% identical to SARS-CoV-2 in any animal, researchers can still ask questions about other possibilities. “

Andy Slavitt, Biden’s senior coronavirus adviser, said on Tuesday the world had to “get to the bottom … whatever the answer”.

“We need a completely transparent process from China; we need the help of WHO in this area, ”Slavitt said. “We don’t feel like we have that now. ”

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