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Biden Steps Up Effort to Trace COVID's Origin

Criticism of WHO's dismissal of lab theory increases
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2021 3:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – Saying Wednesday that the investigations so far have been inconclusive, President Biden gave intelligence agencies 90 days to find the origins of the coronavirus. Biden said he wants the agencies' "most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident," CNBC reports. He asked them to keep Congress posted, as well. The leading possibilities are that the virus escaped from a lab in China and that it jumped from an animal to humans. The president's statement said that he asked for an assessment earlier this year, but that intelligence officials don't have enough evidence to consider one of the scenarios to be more likely than the other, per the New York Times. The lab theory has picked up support recently.

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Pressure for definitive answers, especially from the World Health Organization, has been building. Working with China, the WHO in March gave little credence to one of the possibilities, calling it "extremely unlikely" that the coronavirus came from a lab. Andy Slavitt, a Biden coronavirus adviser, criticized that effort Tuesday. "We need to get to the bottom of this, and we need a completely transparent process from China," he said. "We need the WHO to assist in that matter. We don't feel like we have that now." The virus was first found near Wuhan, a city in China's Hubei province that's the home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Pointing out that its first investigative effort didn't impress anyone, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health said, "WHO needs to go back and try again," adding, "we need a really expert-driven, no-holds-barred collection of information." (Wuhan lab employees fell ill in November 2019.)

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