President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered US intelligence agencies to report to him in the next three months on whether the Covid-19 virus first emerged in China from an animal source or from a laboratory accident.
Agencies should “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,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.
According to Biden, agencies are currently split over the two possible sources for the virus that swept the planet over the past year, killing more than 3.4 million people — a figure experts say is undoubtedly an underestimate.
Biden’s order signals an escalation in mounting controversy over how the virus first emerged — through animal contact at a market in Wuhan, China, or through release of the coronavirus from a highly secure research laboratory in the same city.
The answer has immense implications both for China, which says it is not responsible for the pandemic, and for US politics, where the lab theory has been used by Republicans to attack Beijing.
Biden said that in March he asked for a report on the origins of the virus, including “whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.”
“As of today, the US intelligence community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question,” he said.
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