Biden orders to “redouble” efforts to look into origins of COVID-19

May 27 , 2021. 6 hours ago – 03:49 KYODO NEWS

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2021 in Washington (Getty/Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he has asked the intelligence community to “redouble” its efforts to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus and report back to him in 90 days.

The move came amid renewed attention to a theory that the virus, first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 before spreading throughout the world, may have accidentally leaked from a laboratory in the central Chinese city.

Biden said he tasked the intelligence community in March with preparing a report on its most up-to-date analysis of the origins of the COVID-19 disease, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.

As of Wednesday, the intelligence community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios” but has not reached a definitive conclusion, the president said in a statement.

“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,” he said, adding that there are also “specific questions for China.”

The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to “press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence,” Biden said.

The previous administration under Donald Trump had pushed a theory that the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have been the birthplace of the virus, claiming some researchers there developed symptoms consistent with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that three researchers from the institute became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, citing an undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.

The newspaper said the findings could add weight to growing calls for a more thorough probe as to whether the virus may have escaped from the laboratory.

China has denied the report, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian telling a press conference Monday that the institute had not been exposed to COVID-19 before December 30, 2019.

“A ‘zero-infection’ record is kept among its staff and graduate students so far,” he said.