Biden Says He’ll Release 90-Day Intelligence Report on Origins of Covid-19

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Biden Says He’ll Release 90-Day Intelligence Report on Origins of Covid-19” – below is their description.

    President Joe Biden called Wednesday for a deeper U.S. intelligence investigation into the origins of Covid-19, giving new life to claims that the coronavirus escaped a Chinese lab.

    After more than a year hunting for the pandemic’s mysterious origins before the first cluster was found at a Wuhan food market, it’s unclear what new resources American spies may bring to the search. Biden’s order also reopens a rift with Beijing, which has impeded previous international investigations and punished foreign governments for suggesting it has something to hide.

    In a surprise statement, Biden announced that the U.S. intelligence community had delivered a report to him earlier this month on the virus’s origins. The document acknowledged divisions over whether the virus was naturally transmitted from animals to humans — the prevailing theory of scientists — or whether it leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a claim popular with Republicans that hasn’t been ruled out by experts.

    Biden said that two “elements” of the intelligence community leaned toward a natural origin for the virus, while another leaned toward the Wuhan lab, a global hub for coronavirus research. Each side had “low to moderate confidence,” and the majority of the 17 organizations that make up the community believed there wasn’t enough information to assess which scenario was more likely, Biden said.

    He ordered intelligence agencies to “redouble their efforts” and report to him again in 90 days. But his hunt for an answer looks like a longshot. Chinese officials have repeatedly denied that the facility was the source of the pathogen, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday dismissed the inquiry as an attempt to engage in “stigmatization, political manipulation and blame-shifting.”

    “This is worth investigating, but we’re looking for an explanation to something that in the end may never be fully resolved,” said William Schaffner, an epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University. “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.

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