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Biden asks intelligence agencies to step up investigation of COVID-19 origins

By
Don Johnson
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate hearing Wednesday looking at budget estimates for the National Institutes of Health and the state of medical research, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate hearing Wednesday looking at budget estimates for the National Institutes of Health and the state of medical research, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

May 26 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has asked the intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to find the likely origins of COVID-19 and provide him with a report within 90 days.

Biden said that questions continue to grow about whether the coronavirus was caused by an accident in a Chinese laboratory or if it developed from human contact from an infected animal.

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Biden said he's asked for further inquiries that may be required, including specific questions for China.

"I have also asked that this effort include work by our national labs and other agencies of our government to augment the intelligence community's efforts," he said in a statement.

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Biden said the U.S. intelligence community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios," but had not reached a "definitive conclusion."

He said while two elements of the intelligence community lean toward the likelihood that the virus emerged from human contact with an infected animal, another leans "towards the possibility of a laboratory accident."

The majority of the intelligence community members, he noted, "do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other."

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"The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence."

The origin of the COVID-19 virus was a topic at a Senate appropriations committee hearing Wednesday, where Republicans senators questioned Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, about the lab leak theory.

Fauci said he still believes the virus occurred naturally, but supported the idea that investigations should continue to determine what happened.

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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the host animal is not known for the COVID-19 virus and that China has had a history of laboratory accidents.

"If there was an intermediate host [for COVID-19], we haven't found one yet," Fauci said.

Rubio noted that COVID-19 was initially found in the same city, Wuhan, where laboratories experiment with these type of viruses. He said those who'd first raised the possibility of a lab virus and were ridiculed should get an apology.

"We should send a clear signal to China that something will happen if they are responsible," added Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

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When asked by Graham why the United States should send vaccine doses to developing nations, Fauci said it's in America's best interests to ensure that developing countries get doses to fight the health crisis.

"A global pandemic requires a global response," Fauci said.

Though the United States is now better controlling the spread, Fauci said danger could return if the virus is still being transmitted overseas. He called supporting vaccination efforts overseas "enlightened self-interest."

Fauci has been criticized in Chinese media for his stance that additional investigations are needed to determine the origins of the virus.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, wrote this week that Fauci was "fanning a huge lie against China," CNN reported.

A year in pandemic: How COVID-19 changed the world

January 31, 2020
National Institutes of Health official Dr. Anthony Fauci (C) speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar (L) announced that the United States is declaring the virus a public health emergency and issued a federal quarantine order of 14 days for 195 Americans. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

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