Follow Us on Google News
WASHINGTON (Reuters): The officials of the United States intelligence community have declared that only China can help solve questions about the true origins of the virus that has now killed 4.6 million people worldwide.
“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19,” they said. President Joe Biden, who received a classified report earlier this week summarizing the investigation he had ordered, said Washington and its allies will continue to press the Chinese government for answers.
“Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it,” Biden said in a statement after the summary was released.
The summary, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, was set to worsen discord between Beijing and Washington at a time when the countries’ ties are at their lowest point in decades. In the United States, activists worried the investigation could also encourage violence against Asian Americans.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said in a statement the report “underscores the need for China to stop stonewalling international investigations into a global pandemic that has cost so many lives and livelihoods around the world.”
He urged Americans to denounce “hateful rhetoric and discrimination” against Asian Americans. China has ridiculed a theory that COVID-19 escaped from the state virology lab in Wuhan and pushed fringe theories, including that the virus slipped out of a lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 2019.
The US report revealed new details about the extent of the disagreement within the Biden administration over the so-called lab leak theory. Several organizations within the sprawling US intelligence community thought the novel coronavirus emerged from “natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus,” according to the summary. But they had only “low confidence” in that conclusion, the summary said. Other groups were not able to come to any firm opinion at all on the origins.
One intelligence community segment, however, developed “moderate confidence” the first human infection with COVID-19 was likely due to a “laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology” in China.
A team led by the World Health Organization (WHO) that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February dismissed that theory. But their March report, which was written jointly with Chinese scientists, has been faulted for using insufficient evidence to dismiss the theory.
The new US report concluded analysts would not be able to provide “a more definitive explanation” without new information from China, such as clinical samples and epidemiological data about the earliest cases.