Biden renews COVID-19 origin probe that's so far come up empty

Facebook ends ban on posts claiming COVID-19 is man-made

President 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.

"As of today, the U.S. intelligence community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios" but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question", he said.

"Out of a sense of responsibility towards the health of mankind, we support a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world".

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. ABC News has not independently confirmed that intelligence report.

Earlier this week, USA government sources familiar with intelligence reporting and analysis said a still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump's administration alleged that three researchers at China's Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.

In February, Facebook announced that it had expanded the list of "false claims" it would remove from its platforms to include "additional debunked" statements about COVID-19 - including that COVID is "man-made or manufactured".

The natural origin hypothesis holds that the virus emerged in bats then passed to humans, likely via an intermediary species.


The White House said it hasn't ruled any theories out yet on COVID-19's origin but refused to say whether there would be retribution if the tracks led back to a Chinese lab.

China's state-owned Global Times reported quoting Dutch Virologist Marion Koopmans as saying that a follow-up trip to Wuhan would be helpful to obtain more information on the origins of Coronavirus.

"I still believe that the most likely scenario was that this was a natural occurrence, but no one knows that 100% for sure", Fauci said.

Over the past year, most scientists also dismissed the lab-leak theory, but this week President Biden ordered his intelligence officials to explore it more closely.

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden was informed by the intelligence community of their assessment about a month ago, but it was classified information until now. The report said there was "no reporting of Covid-19 compatible respiratory illness during the weeks/months prior to December 2019, and no serological evidence of infection in workers through SARS-CoV-2-specific serology-screening". "We're going to go with the 90-day investigation and see where it takes us from there", she said. "Such study and investigation shall be full, transparent and evidence-based, and shall get to the bottom to make everything clear", added the statement. He also warned that uncertainty may persist, noting that the origin of the 2014 Ebola outbreak still isn't fully understood. Lindsey Graham, another Republican, has pushed for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus and called Wednesday for pre-emptive sanctions on China.

"If it did come from the lab, that's something we need to know, right, because that's a completely different problem for the world", Graham said. "That's why we've advocated very strongly that World Health Organization needs to go back and try again after the first phase of their investigation really satisfied nobody".

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