WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has asked the intelligence community to report within 90 days on the likely origins of COVID-19.
As questions grow about whether the virus was the result of an accident in a Chinese laboratory or spread through other means, Biden said in a statement he wants the community, which has been divided over the issue, to “redouble” their investigative efforts.
As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios,” according to Biden’s statement.
While two elements of the community lean toward the likelihood that the virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal, one leans toward the possibility of a laboratory accident. Their assessments are made “with low or moderate confidence.” and the majority of members of the intelligence community “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”
“I have now asked the Intelligence Community to 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.
Biden’s directive comes a day after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told the World Health Organization that international experts must be able to independently assess the source of the virus.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say Wednesday whether the report will be made public.
The Wall Street Journal on Monday cited a U.S. intelligence report saying that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan, China, the city where the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated, fell sick in the fall of 2019,
The previously undisclosed information provides fresh details on the timing of the hospital visits about a month before China reported the first infections. China and the World Health Organization have downplayed calls for a broader investigation into whether the virus could have escaped from the laboratory.
White House officials have said they have been pressing for an international investigation led by the WHO.
Scientists want answers:Did the coronavirus come directly from animals or was it released from a lab?