Biden orders inquiry into origins of COVID-19

Facebook ends ban on posts claiming COVID-19 is man-made

The move followed President Joe Biden's directive to USA intelligence agencies to investigate competing theories on how the virus first emerged - through animal contact at a market in Wuhan, China, or through accidental release from a research laboratory in the same city.

"As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios" but had not reached a definitive conclusion on this question", said the U.S. President's statement in the tweet from the National Security Council.

"Out of a sense of responsibility towards the health of mankind, we support 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". It remains unclear whether the afflicted researchers were hospitalized or what their symptoms were, one of the sources said.

He ordered intelligence agencies to "redouble their efforts" and report to him again in 90 days.

Biden's announcement also came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report of a previously undisclosed US intelligence report alleging three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology were sick enough to seek hospital care in November 2019. Identifying an animal reservoir of a new virus or an intermediate host that transmitted it to people often takes years, but the huge toll of COVID-19 has added urgency to the search for how SARS-CoV-2 sparked a pandemic.

Origin-tracing of the virus is a scientific issue, not political manipulation, said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday.

He also called on China to cooperate with global investigations.

That is essentially the same public determination that the intelligence community has had for more than a year about the origins of Covid-19 though Wednesday's statement does make clear that these two scenarios are "likely" and not just being investigated. "Most of us continue to believe that we're underestimating Mother Nature here", he said, noting that two previous coronavirus outbreaks this century were determined to have emerged naturally.

"The Chinese Communist Party will likely perceive Biden's call for greater clarity on the origins of COVID-19 as part of his administration's overall strategy to win the competition with China", said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the USA, a research group.

When asked during a White House briefing if the announcement was related to the recent United States intelligence report on the researchers falling ill, principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Wednesday the issue is "something that the President has been working on for some time". They had then called for further investigation and full access to all pertinent human, animal, and other data about the early stage of the outbreak.

Daszak said the World Health Organization team examined the laboratory work of many researchers in Wuhan and found "no evidence at all that any of the labs in China were working on this virus prior to the outbreak ..."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked whether he believed COVID-19 was a "natural occurrence" at a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Introduced by Republican Sens.

She added: "Getting to the bottom of the origin of this pandemic will help us understand how to prepare for the next pandemic and the next one".

"If it did come from the lab, that's something we need to know, right, because that's a completely different problem for the world", Graham said.

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