White House: Finding COVID-19 Origin a Top Priority

  • White House: Finding COVID-19 Origin a Top Priority

White House: Finding COVID-19 Origin a Top Priority

Leaders of the White House's COVID-19 task force refused to completely discount a popularly held theory that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China.

A State Department fact sheet released near the end of the Trump administration said "the U.S. government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illnesses". "And that's exactly what we've been calling for".

"We hope that other relevant countries will cooperate closely with World Health Organization experts in a scientific, open, transparent and responsible manner, as China has done", Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on March 31.

The origin of the virus is hotly contested. In a report https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus/origins-of-the-virus issued in March written jointly with Chinese scientists, a World Health Organization-led team that spent four weeks in and around Wuhan in January and February said the virus had probably been transmitted from bats to humans through another animal, and that "introduction through a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway".

This reporting adds a new level of detail to the information put out in a State Department fact sheet past year, which said the US had confirmed that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had fallen ill. Intelligence reporting about possible November infections among Wuhan Institute employees "can't be dismissed" by USA researchers, the source added. She said China revealed the researchers tested negative for the virus and the evidence did not point to a lab leak.

The White House has not yet said whether it's seen evidence to disprove the lab leak theory, but has joined calls for an independent investigation. Both were assembled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The first cases of what would eventually be known as Covid-19 were reported at the end of December 2019 in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the advanced laboratory specialising in coronavirus research is located.

The United States called on Tuesday for global experts to be allowed to evaluate the source of the coronavirus and the "early days of the outbreak" in a second phase of an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

"There has been a persistent, albeit relatively quiet, focus on whether that was the origin of the virus, and it is compounded by the fact there have not been clear answers from Chinese officials about it, and investigators trying to find out the origin have been stymied", Haberman said.

Former President Donald Trump said on Monday that he is fully on board with the possibility that the virus emerged from the Wuhan lab.

The WHO, which opened its annual ministerial assembly on Monday, has not announced any follow-up to the Wuhan mission but member states may raise concerns in speeches to the week-long forum.

The pandemic has killed more than 3.4 million people worldwide.

Speaking to the WHO on Tuesday, US Secretary for Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra did not mention China by name.