Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China’s Hubei province, 3 February 2021 .
Thomas Peter | Reuters
The House of Representatives on Friday voted unanimously to release information about possible links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Covid-19 pandemic, sending the bill to President Joe Biden.
The Senate also voted unanimously earlier this month to require Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, to release such information.
Covid first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019, although how the virus spread to humans is not yet known. Scientists have been arguing for years whether Covid came from an infected animal that transmitted the virus to humans, or whether the pathogen escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Congressional efforts to release information on the origins of Covid come after the Department of Energy concluded with “low confidence” that the virus most likely escaped from a Wuhan lab as a result of an accident.
The Department of Energy is one of 18 agencies that make up the US Secret Service. The department was previously undecided on how the virus originated.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has also concluded that the pandemic likely started with a lab incident in Wuhan, the agency’s director Christopher Wray told Fox News earlier this month.
“The FBI has held for some time that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential laboratory incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News. “You’re talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled laboratory.”
“I just want to make the comment that it seems to me that the Chinese government has done its best to try to thwart and cover up the work here, the work we are doing, the work of our US government and close foreign partners do. And that’s unfortunate for everyone,” Wray said.
Biden ordered the intelligence community in 2021 to provide an updated analysis of the origins of the pandemic. Intelligence agencies have been divided on how Covid spread among humans, although they said a natural original and a lab leak are both plausible.
Four unnamed authorities in that 2021 report came to a low-confidence assessment that an infected animal transmitted the virus to humans. Intelligence agencies agreed that Covid was not developed as a biological weapon, and most authorities assessed that the virus was not genetically engineered.
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The Central Intelligence Agency and another unnamed agency are unsure whether the virus is natural in origin or originated in a lab, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on the Department of Energy’s position.
“Right now, there is no definitive intelligence answer to that question,” Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, told CNN last week. “Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, others on the other. Some of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure.”
Sullivan said Biden specifically requested that Department of Energy national laboratories participate in the intelligence review of the onset of the pandemic. He would neither confirm nor deny reports of the Department of Energy’s assessment that a lab leak was more likely.
dr Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins, the former heads of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institutes of Health respectively, have claimed that Covid is most likely transmitted to humans from an infected animal. Such an animal has not been identified three years after the pandemic began.
House Republicans have called on Fauci, Collins and other former and current health officials to testify about the origins of the pandemic.
China has denied the virus escaped from a lab. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning referred to a World Health Organization report released in March 2021, which said a laboratory origin of the pandemic had been “considered extremely unlikely”.
But the US and 12 other countries slammed the WHO report because the experts who wrote it did not have access to full original data and samples.
On the day the report was published, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all hypotheses on the origin of the pandemic are on the table and more studies are needed. Tedros called on Beijing to be more transparent last week.
“The WHO continues to urge China to be transparent in sharing data and to carry out the necessary investigations and share the results for this purpose – until then, all hypotheses about the origins of the virus remain on the table,” Tedros said at a press conference in Geneva.
He also urged the US to share any information it has on the origins of the pandemic.
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