President Joe Biden pledged to release the report on the origins of COVID-19 that he asked intelligence agencies to work on for the next 90 days.
‘Yes, unless there’s something I’m unaware of,’ he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before departing for a trip to Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday.
The White House announced Wednesday that Biden had asked his intelligence agencies to step up their efforts to get to the truth of the origins of COVID-19 amid growing concern that it emerged from a Chinese laboratory.
President Joe Biden pledged to release the intelligence report he commissioned on the origins of COVID-19 ‘unless there’s something I’m unaware of,’ he told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrew Thursday
Biden said Wednesday he would continue to press China to participate in a full, transparent investigation to find out whether its Wuhan lab (pictured) was the source of the COVID-19 pandemic
A string of senior scientists have recently admitted they may have leapt to conclusions in assuming the virus jumped from an animal host in the wild to humans and are now looking into the theory it leaked from a Wuhan lab that have been dismissed for the last 12 months.
At the weekend fresh details emerged about how staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital treatment for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019.
The result is that a theory once consigned to fringe websites, championed by the Trump administration and decried by the media has moved into the mainstream and Biden aides have ditched their skepticism to call for more investigations.
Biden defended his administration’s approach and said the intelligence agents were divided on the two possible scenarios: laboratory leak or natural transfer in the wild.
‘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,’ said Biden.
‘As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.’
He also directed national laboratories to assist with the investigation.
‘The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,’ he said.
President Joe Biden made the pledge as he departed for Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday on board Air Force One
But he also said a final answer may never be found given the way that China refused to cooperate in the early days of an outbreak which has gone on to kill more than five million people around the world.
Even so, his statement marks a reversal for an administration that repeatedly expressed skepticism for the lab leak hypothesis.
In contrast, President Trump and his allies quickly pointed the finger at China as the pandemic spread.
In April last year, he said he had a ‘high degree of confidence’ that the novel coronavirus came from a lab and claimed to have seen evidence to support his certainty.
Last fall, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lead an investigation to answer whether China’s biological weapons program may have played a role in the pandemic, sources told on Tuesday.
Three members of staff Wuhan Institute of Virology were reported to have sought medical help for COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, adding to growing speculation that the virus escaped from the facility triggered a pandemic
The government’s most senior infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci said he could not be 100% sure of the origins of COVID-19, although he added that a natural transfer from animal to human in the wild remained the most likely explanation
And it comes as senior scientists admit they cannot be certain of the virus’s origins.
The initially pointed to previous coronavirus outbreaks, including SARS and MERS, which could all be traced to naturally occurring animal reservoirs as evidence of COVID-19’s origins.
But so far a natural host has yet to be found.
During a White House briefing on Tuesday, Dr.
Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious diseases expert, said he still believed the most likely explanation was a natural transfer to humans but that a deeper investigation is needed.
‘Because we don’t know 100 percent what the origin is, it’s imperative that we look and we do an investigation,’ he said.
The World Health Organization released a joint report with Chinese scientists in March after a team spent four weeks in Wuhan.
But its findings were criticized amid concerns that investigators were delayed and lacked access to original samples.
This week Andy Slavitt, White House coronavirus adviser, said it had failed to explain how COVID-19 first emerged.
‘We need to get to the bottom of this and we need a completely transparent process from China,’ he said.
‘We need the WHO to assist in that matter.
We don’t feel like we have that now.’
The result has been fresh Republican demands for Fauci to be fired as his critics once again accuse him of flipflopping.
Their anger may have been predictable, but the figurehead for the U.S.
pandemic response also came under fire from a new quarter: Chinese state media.
He accused Fauci of ‘fanning a huge lie’ against China.
‘Rumors and slander against China can be seen everywhere in the US media, and politicians lie about China without any bottom line,’ he wrote.
However, senior officials have repeatedly suggested in recent weeks that they cannot be certain of COVID-19’s origins.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told senators last month: “It is absolutely accurate the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially, and basically components have coalesced around two alternative theories, these scenarios are it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident.
The White House said getting to the bottom of this pandemic would help the world prepare for the next one.
But Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shrugged off questions about whether new evidence had emerged to prompt the fresh push.
‘Nothing has changed,’ she said during the daily White House briefing.
‘The president has asked his team to look into this back in March so this is something that has been ongoing.’
<div class="art-ins mol-factbox news" data-version="2" id="mol-2611ab60-be52-11eb-9abc-2de6cfe4a882" website promises to release US intelligence findings on COVID origins