Biden gives intel agencies 90 days to pinpoint COVID origins as lab leak theory debated
Iran Press TV
Thursday, 27 May 2021 9:51 AM
President Joe Biden has tasked the US intelligence community with reporting on the origin of COVID-19 within 90 days, saying rival theories including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China are being pursued.
Biden said in a statement on Wednesday that the US Intelligence Community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios," without saying what those scenarios are.
His remarks came after an intelligence report claimed that several researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized.
The report, published by the Wall Street Journal, prompted angry response from China, which accused Washington of "spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation."
"I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days," Biden said.
"As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China," he added.
"I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community's efforts," Biden said.
The president said, "The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19."
Biden had said in March that he directed his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, to task the intelligence community with preparing a report on the most up-to-date analysis of the origin of the pandemic.
He said he received that report earlier this month and asked for additional follow-up.
Former president Donald Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo repeatedly claimed that virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan, labeling it a "the Chinese virus."
The recent development prompted Trump to issue a statement on Tuesday and defend using the term "Chinese virus."
"Now everybody is agreeing that I was right when I very early on called Wuhan as the source of COVID-19, sometimes referred to as the China Virus," he said.
Trump even contradicted an on-the-record statement from his own intelligence community when he said at a news conference, he had a "high degree of confidence" that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab.
CNN reported late Tuesday that Biden's "team" shut down a State Department investigation that was launched last fall by Trump's administration to prove that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab with links to the Chinese military.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that Washington is relying on the World Health Organization to oversee an international investigation into COVID-19's origins.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has formerly declared the lab leak theory as "extremely unlikely."
The organization has now called for a broader investigation into whether the virus could have escaped from a laboratory where it was being studied, collected from a bat or other animal.
It had also urged people to avoid terms like the "Wuhan virus" or the "Chinese virus."
Late last year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study which said hundreds of COVID-19 cases were found in the US, as early as December 2019, indicating that the virus was spreading globally weeks before the first cases were reported in China.
The study identified 106 infections from 7,389 blood samples collected from donors in nine US states between December 13, 2019 and January 17.
The samples, collected by the American Red Cross, were sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to detect if there were antibodies against the virus.
As of Wednesday, the virus has killed over 3,498,000 people across the world, including 591,953 in the US, only.
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