U.S. Consultants Name on China to Enable Extra Inquiries Into Pandemic’s Origin

With renewed attention to the origins of the coronavirus, experts and officials on Sunday called on China to create more transparency and investigate more quickly whether the devastating pandemic began with a leak from a laboratory.

“There will be Covid-26 and Covid-32 if we don’t fully understand the origins of Covid-19,” said Peter J. Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of Texas Children’s Children’s The hospital’s vaccine development center said “Meet the Press” on the NBC program.

Last Wednesday, President Biden ordered US intelligence services to “redouble their efforts” to find out where the virus came from and gave them 90 days to investigate two theories: that the virus accidentally leaked from a laboratory in China or that it was first transmitted animal to humans outside of a laboratory. The suspicion has centered on the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has long collected bat viruses and whose laboratories have conducted experiments on them. It is located in the city where the coronavirus first appeared.

A World Health Organization research this year largely dismissed the possibility of the virus leaking from the institute, but many critics criticized the efforts as a lack of broad access to determine its origin.

Mr Biden has said he hoped the investigation he ordered, which will include untested information, will bring the United States “closer to a final conclusion” about the virus. He has undertaken to publish the report publicly.

Dr. Hotez said Sunday that the investigation may not provide much new information because the United States had already “pushed the intelligence community as far as possible”. He suggested that the world needed a full new scientific search for outbreak answers, particularly in China.

“There is much work to be done for natural origins,” he said of the leading theory, but an independent team of scientists, epidemiologists, and virologists would have to work in China for a period of six months to a year for the world to “figure it out completely.” may origins of Covid-19. “The team would have to interview scientists and review their lab books to investigate the possibility of a lab leak, he said.

When asked whether this would be possible without China’s cooperation, Dr. Hotez no. “I think we really need to put a lot of pressure on China,” he said, including possible sanctions to ensure “unrestricted access” to a team of top scientists.

Chinese state media continued to respond defiantly to such calls. On Sunday, an editorial in the Global Times, a Chinese news site reflecting Beijing’s line, mocked Mr. Biden’s urge for new information and described all results as “preset” to be a laboratory in Wuhan. The US intelligence services have “no superior research capacity” than the World Health Organization or more information.

“What they’ll get in the end is nothing but political,” said the editorial.

Matthew Pottinger, who served as deputy national security advisor to former President Donald J. Trump, introduced Dr. Hotez presented a contrast in assessing the prospects of Mr. Biden’s investigation.

“I think that an enormous amount could actually come out,” said Pottinger, also at “Meet the Press”.

He said Biden’s call for a fresh look at the evidence and intelligence agencies could encourage scientists in China to take a step forward – even if there is a risk of angering Beijing.

“If this thing comes out of a lab, there are people in China who probably know,” he said. The new initiative, Pottinger added, “could give moral courage to many of those ethics scholars in China for whom I believe it weighs on their consciences. I think we will bring out more information as a result of this investigation. “

Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday that intercepted intelligence communications had provided intriguing evidence of a laboratory leak.

“We have signal intelligence and human and other forms of intelligence,” he said, which while not certain, suggest that a laboratory leak is “more likely than not.”

This contrasted with an earlier report that federal officials in China had not intercepted any communications that provided strong evidence for the theory. Gathering so-called signal information – electronic communications or phone calls – is notoriously difficult in China.

Michael Shear contributed to the coverage.

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