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Biden slams China as new report on Covid-19 origins is released

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Friday 27 August 2021 22:18 BST
Fauci says new aim is to get Covid under control by spring

President Joe Biden criticised the People’s Republic of China for its lack of transparency after the Director of National Intelligence briefed him on a report into the origins into Covid-19.

“We needed this information rapidly, from the PRC, while the pandemic was still new,” he said. “The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them. Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world.”

The DNI released the unclassified version of its report on Friday. The president had ordered the Intelligence Community to conduct a 90-day report into the origins of the virus.

But the report’s summary showed the origins are still unclear, and it also cited the lack of clarity from China.

“After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19,” it said. “All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.”

At the same time, the Intelligence Community judged that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was not developed as a biological weapon, but that two agencies believed there was insufficient evidence to make a judgement either way.

But there were other assessments among individual groups within the Intelligence Community. Four elements of the community and the National Intelligence Council assessed with “low confidence” that the initial infection was likely caused by natural exposure to an animal with the virus or a similar one.

Meanwhile, one element of the community assessed with “moderate confidence” that the first human infection came from a laboratory-associated incident that likely involved experimentation, animal handling or handling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

But three agencies of the community were unable to coalesce around whether an animal infection or a laboratory incident caused the infection.

The lack of transparency means there are few conclusive answers into the origins of Covid-19.

“The IC — and the global scientific community — lacks clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases,” the summary said. “If we obtain information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or occupational exposure, it may alter our evaluation of hypotheses.”

Mr Biden said the United States would continue to press China to adhere to scientific norms and standards like sharing information.

“We must have a full and transparent accounting of this global tragedy. Nothing less is acceptable.”

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