A top Biden cabinet member has demanded that the World Health Organization (WHO) “must” launch a more “transparent” investigation into the origins of COVID-19 as Republican lawmakers demand answers and top scientists admit the virus could have come from a Chinese lab.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday said in an address to the World Health Assembly, a conference organized by the WHO, that independent experts worldwide must be allowed to “fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic not only stole a year from our lives, it stole millions of lives,” Becerra said. “Now we must honor our departed by taking urgent action this year — to strengthen health security and pandemic preparedness so that we are better prepared for the next global health crisis.”
“We must also do more to understand our current pandemic,” he said. “Phase 2 of the COVID origins study must be launched with terms of reference that are transparent, science-based, and give international experts the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”
Republican lawmakers have long insisted that the government should investigate the theory that the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Last week GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee claimed that “significant circumstantial evidence” exists showing that the virus first emerged from a leak at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The lawmakers, headed by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who is the top Republican on the committee, said in a report obtained by Fox News that China has not cooperated with efforts to find out where the virus originated.
“International efforts to discover the true source of the virus, however, have been stymied by a lack of cooperation from the People’s Republic of China,” they wrote in the report. “Nevertheless, significant circumstantial evidence raises serious concerns that the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The report also said the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military had “involvement” in the lab and rejected the long-reported claim that the virus came from bats. “By contrast, little circumstantial evidence has emerged to support the PRC’s claim that COVID-19 was a natural occurrence, having jumped from some other species to human,” the lawmakers wrote.
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week it is possible the virus had a “lab-based origin.”
At a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) asked CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky how she thinks the pandemic began. “I don’t believe I’ve seen enough data, individual data for me to be able to comment on that,” Walensky said.
Kennedy then asked about the “possibilities” of where the virus originated: “Certainly the possibilities of, that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from, that have infected the population — SARS CoV-1, MERS — generally come from an animal origin.”
“Are there any other possibilities?” Kennedy asked.
“Certainly a lab-based origin is one possibility,” Walensky said.
Joseph Curl covered the White House for a dozen years and ran the Drudge Report for four years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @JosephCurl.
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