President Biden told the intelligence community on Wednesday to “redouble” efforts to determine how the coronavirus originated, saying the data collected so far falls short of offering the United States and its partners a definitive answer.
He wants a report in three months.
The presidential statement suggests a shift toward intelligence-focused efforts after officials said for months they would work with the World Health Organization to pressure China for more details on whether the virus occurred naturally or escaped. from a laboratory in Wuhan.
However, Biden said he would not exclude the allies.
“The United States will also continue to work with like-minded partners around the world to pressure China to engage in a comprehensive, transparent, and evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Biden said.
Whether the virus that killed more than 590,000 people in the US was the result of natural events in the animal kingdom or something more dire, it has gained more attention, especially as the worst of the pandemic recedes in the US. In the middle of the vaccine launch.
Former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies repeatedly pointed to the possibility of a leak in a Chinese laboratory, but were often ridiculed as conspiracy theorists. Trump said the WHO was too weak on China to get a real answer.
The notion of a laboratory mishap has gained widespread credibility of late, particularly after reports that researchers at a Wuhan virology laboratory became so ill in November 2019 that they were hospitalized.
Global scientists say that the communist government in Beijing has been the main impediment to the efforts, although Biden appeared to criticize the actions of his predecessor at the start of the pandemic.
“The fact that our inspectors are not on the ground in those first few months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19,” he said. “However, shortly after assuming the presidency, in March, my national security adviser commissioned the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on its most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, even if it arose from human contact. with an infected animal or a laboratory accident “.
He said he received a report this month that lends moderate credibility to both the animal scenario and the laboratory explanation, but “most of the elements do not believe there is enough information to assess that one is more likely than the other.
“Now I have asked the intelligence community to redouble its efforts to collect and analyze information that can bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days,” he said.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre argued that the focus on US intelligence was not a dramatic shift in the administration’s focus. He said they will continue to support the efforts of the WHO.
“This is something that has been ongoing. We have spoken quite a bit with WHO in the last few months, ”said Ms Jean-Pierre. “We have to get to the bottom of this.”
He did not describe any sanctions for China if it does not cooperate with the investigation, or if the investigation uncovers something ugly, and said the administration will see how the next 90 days go.
Ms Jean-Pierre also said that a firm conclusion would help the world prepare “for the next pandemic and the next.”