WASHINGTON: The United States wants a “robust and clear” international probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in China, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Speaking to reporters, she said it was “imperative we get to the bottom” of how the virus appeared and spread worldwide. Psaki highlighted “great concern” over “misinformation” from “some sources in China.”
The coronavirus has killed more than two million people, infected at least 100 million and hammered the global economy since first being detected about a year ago in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
Earlier this month, a team of experts from the World Health Organization, or WHO, arrived in Wuhan after repeated delays to probe the virus’s origins. Scientists agree that the disease has an animal origin and the focus is on the Wuhan wet market selling live animals.
Former US president Donald Trump supported a theory that the virus could have instead originated in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology which China rejects.
Days before Trump left office this month, the State Department attacked the Chinese Communist Party’s “deadly obsession with secrecy and control.” It said that staff at the Wuhan lab had fallen sick with symptoms resembling Covid-19 in 2019, before any cases of the virus were made public.
Beijing has countered with arguments that although Wuhan is where the first cluster of cases was detected, it is not necessarily where the virus originated. The government and state media have even tried to push conspiracy theories about a supposed link to a US biological weapons lab in Maryland.
Psaki said the new Biden government was devoting significant resources of its own to understanding what happened and would not take the WHO report for granted.
She said Washington will “draw on information collected and analyzed by our intelligence community” and also work with allies to evaluate the “credibility” of the international report. In addition, the Biden administration intends to boost “staffing on the ground in Beijing, which is something that fell back in the last administration.”