Biden orders review of Covid-19 origins as lab leak theory debated

President says the US intelligence community is split on whether the pandemic stemmed from a lab accident or emerged from human contact with an infected animal.

A man talks on the telephone.
US President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of Covid-19, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China. Photo: Joe Biden/Twitter

PRETORIA, May 27 (ANA) – US President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to intensify their efforts in investigating the origins of Covid-19, including the theory that it came from a laboratory in China, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The British broadcaster quoted Biden as saying that the US intelligence community was split on whether the novel coronavirus came from a lab accident or emerged from human contact with an infected animal.

Biden asked the groups to report to him within 90 days.

In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a 120-page report into the origin of the coronavirus. The report cited four possible sources for the virus, the most likely scenario being an intermediate animal host such as a wild animal captured and then raised on a farm.

It said the least likely source was a laboratory leak.

China has rejected the laboratory theory.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused the US of “political manipulation and blame-shifting”.

The BBC quoted Lijian as saying that it showed the US does not care about facts or truth and has zero interest in a serious, science-based study of origins.

“Their aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatisation, political manipulation and blame-shifting. They are being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people’s lives and counter-productive to the concerted efforts to fight the virus,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

A day after the release of the report, 14 countries raised concerns over a report by the WHO into the origin of the coronavirus, citing delays and a lack of full access to data, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported at the time.

According to Al Jazeera, the US, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, South Korea, Slovenia and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement they fully supported the WHO’s efforts to bring an end to the pandemic, including getting to the bottom of its origins and the spread.

But the 14 countries added that it was “essential that we voice our shared concerns that the international expert study on the source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was significantly delayed and lacked access to complete, original data and samples”.

Al Jazeera said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also demanded further research to reach more robust conclusions, saying he did not believe the assessment was extensive enough.

“Although the team has concluded that a laboratory leak is the least likely hypothesis, this requires further investigation, potentially with additional missions involving specialist experts, which I am ready to deploy,” Tedros was quoted as saying during a briefing.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher

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