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Biden orders review of COVID origins as lab leak theory debated

CoronavirusMay 27, 2021 08:11AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (not pictured) hold a joint news conference after a day of meetings at the White House, in Washington, U.S. May 21, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19, saying on Wednesday that U.S. intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

Intelligence agencies are considering two likely scenarios but still lack strong confidence in their conclusions and are hotly debating which is more probable, Biden said.

The conclusions were detailed in a report to Biden, who asked his team in March to detail whether the novel coronavirus "emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident," according to the president's written statement.

Biden's unusual public disclosure about private and inconclusive U.S. intelligence assessments revealed a debate raging within his administration over where the novel coronavirus originated. It also lent credence to a theory that the virus may have emerged from a Chinese research laboratory instead of in nature.

China's embassy in the United States said late on Thursday that politicizing the issue would hamper investigations into the origins of COVID-19.

China supports "a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world," the embassy said in remarks attributed to a spokesperson, posted on its website.

The pandemic has killed more than 3 million people worldwide and battered the global economy because of lockdowns and other restrictions to slow its spread. The origin of the virus remains contested among experts. The first known cases emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

In a report issued in March and written jointly with Chinese scientists, a World Health Organization-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that "introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway."

'SPECIFIC QUESTIONS FOR CHINA'

Washington's frustration has mounted in recent weeks over what it sees as insufficient cooperation from China into the international investigation.

"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."

U.S. agencies have been pursuing COVID-19's origins since the government first recognized the virus as a serious health risk in early 2020.

Earlier this week, U.S. government sources said a still-classified U.S. intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump's administration alleged that three researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.

The source of that early intelligence or how reliable U.S. agencies rate it is not known. It remains unclear whether the afflicted researchers were hospitalized or what their symptoms were, one of the sources said.

Intelligence committees of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are investigating how U.S. agencies have reported on and gathered information about COVID-19's origin, how it spread and how governments have responded to it.

A report issued by House Intelligence Committee Republicans earlier this month focused particularly on the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The Republican report asserted that "significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak" from the institute, suggested the Wuhan lab was involved in biological weapons research, and that Beijing had attempted to "cover up" the virus' origins.

Washington has called for the WHO to open a second phase to its investigation on COVID-19's origin.

On Wednesday in Geneva, WHO emergency director Mike Ryan said the agency expected to provide an update on its proposed next steps "in the coming weeks."

China's delegation to the WHO said on Tuesday it was calling on "all parties" to "adopt an open and transparent attitude" to cooperate with the WHO's attempts to trace the virus' origin.

Biden orders review of COVID origins as lab leak theory debated
 

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Comments (23)
Nordin Mohamad
Nordin Mohamad May 27, 2021 6:09PM ET
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WHO is belong to ccp....don't trust WHO any story related to ccp virus....WHO is just the speaker to ccp and doing rubber stamp for ccp
Nordin Mohamad
Nordin Mohamad May 27, 2021 6:09PM ET
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ccp is using WHO to get away from their responsibility causing ccp virus pandemic and global hardship with so many people lost their life...basically ccp is doing grlobal genocide....
Murali Brahmandam
Murali Brahmandam May 27, 2021 2:15AM ET
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Arrest all US Fed governors Covid will go away
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 27, 2021 2:15AM ET
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Got nothing better to do? While you are at it, be sure to find out if the chinese killed jfk.
Murali Brahmandam
Murali Brahmandam May 27, 2021 2:14AM ET
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Naples and US West coast were the first to get covid infections outside China. Those MF leather dealers from LA and Italy did this because they had. too much money to indulge because Fu Ching Feds pumped up stocks
Murali Brahmandam
Murali Brahmandam May 27, 2021 2:06AM ET
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The indulgence theory is valid because Stocks were at all times highs. So moral to F u ching Feds is don't pump up stocks to solve problems.
Murali Brahmandam
Murali Brahmandam May 27, 2021 2:03AM ET
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White business people from Italy who were indulging in exotic bat meals that had Covid in them in Wuhan got the virus, they then spread the virus to many local Chinese and then flew off to US West coast and Naples, Italy to spread them there.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 27, 2021 1:56AM ET
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Just find a corona virus in the wild, put the carrier close to human, soon the virus jumps to human. It was from the lab. China retaliated Trump.
Simon Liu
Simon Liu May 27, 2021 1:22AM ET
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On one side, you said you believe USA is the strongest country on earth, on the other side you rumered China as more advanced country than USA on biology. What a joke. If a virus is created in a lab, it is only USA who has the science and technology. Otherwise, you will have to admit China is the most advanced country in the world, that USA has even no way to defence.
Pierre Delport
Pierre Delport May 27, 2021 12:23AM ET
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Chinese shills commenting here
Duke Maverick
Duke Maverick May 26, 2021 10:36PM ET
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never trust China! do you?
David David
David9 May 26, 2021 9:11PM ET
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This has been decided long ago...the majority of the world has no more need to hear from the propaganda machine...
Tony Huynh
Tony Huynh May 26, 2021 9:10PM ET
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So Conservatives really believe that Covid is both not dangerous, it's just like a Flu, and also it's a dangerous bioweapons from China? lol your logic doesn't match here
Joel Bennett
Joel Bennett May 26, 2021 9:03PM ET
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And when they finally disvover the truth, they will cover it up and not do a thing about it.
Matt Brackley
Matt Brackley May 26, 2021 9:03PM ET
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there will never be truth for the peasants
Patron Silver
Patron Silver May 26, 2021 8:30PM ET
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can we start bombing now
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy May 26, 2021 8:17PM ET
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All of a sudden.  It was more than obvious a year ago.
ch hon
ch hon May 26, 2021 7:42PM ET
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many news reports on discovery of covid 19 in blood samples in several countries which already existed before the Wuhan outbreak.
Terry Dude
Terry Dude May 26, 2021 7:08PM ET
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ask Fauci
Catholic Man
CatholicMan May 26, 2021 5:39PM ET
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So what Trump was saying over a year ago.
Hunter Gassaway
Hunter Gassaway May 26, 2021 4:59PM ET
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Why is nobody talking about the military Olympics held in Wuhan 2019 before the lab scientists fell ill. Athletes became ill and claim it was Covid...America, Italy, Iran France...140 Nations. America came 35th. "A strong correlation exists in COVID-19 cases reported at U.S. military facilities that are home based of members of the U.S. team that went to Wuhan."
Yup Tub
Yup Tub May 26, 2021 4:47PM ET
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China is enormous with hundreds of cities but because an incredible coincidence, the coronavirus pandemic began in the only city where the chinese hace a high-security bio-lab studing coronaviruses.
Mox Mox
Mox Mox May 26, 2021 2:31PM ET
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what a Joke. he won by claiming to be the opposite of Trump and he's doing the same. Trump said it was China looooong ago and Biden laughed at him
Steffen vdm
Steffen vdm May 26, 2021 2:31PM ET
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I can guarantee you that he is still laughing at Trump
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel May 26, 2021 2:28PM ET
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Biden has a China first foreign policy
Anthony Doan
Anthony Doan May 26, 2021 2:02PM ET
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The mummy will never admit it came from the Wuhan lab.
Mox Mox
Mox Mox May 26, 2021 2:02PM ET
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he will have to when reality hits
Clarisse Noelle
Clarisse Noelle May 26, 2021 2:02PM ET
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Faux investigation
 
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