US officials press China to provide greater transparency on COVID-19 origins

World Monday 31/May/2021 17:11 PM
US officials press China to provide greater transparency on COVID-19 origins

Washington: With a renewed focus on a fresh investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus, US experts and officials on Sunday called on China to provide greater transparency and speed inquiries into whether the pandemic began with a leak from a lab.

"There's going to be COVID-26 and COVID-32 unless we 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 the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development on US media, reported The New York Times. Hotez said on Sunday that the US President Joe Biden's push for an inquiry into the virus origins might not yield much new information because the United States had already "pushed intelligence about as far as we can".

He suggested that the world needed a sweeping new scientific search for outbreak answers, most especially in China, including an independent team of scientists, epidemiologists and virologists working in China for a period of six months to a year so the world can "fully unravel the origins of COVID-19."

"The team would have to interview scientists and scrutinise their lab notebooks in order to investigate the possibility of a lab leak," he said, adding that the world needs to put a lot of pressure on China, including possible sanctions.

Matthew Pottinger, who served as deputy national security adviser to former President Donald Trump, said that Biden's call for a fresh look at the evidence and the intelligence could prompt scientists in China to step forward, reported The New York Times.

"If this thing came out of a lab, there are people in China who probably know that," he said.

US Republican Representative Michael McCaul told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that intercepted intelligence communications had provided intriguing clues pointing to a lab leak.

"We have signals intelligence and human and other forms of intelligence," he said, that while not certain in nature, suggest a lab leak is "more likely than not".

Biden last week said he has asked the US intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to come to a conclusion on the origins of COVID-19 and report back to him within 90 days.

"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 in a statement on the investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian termed the Biden administration's move as disrespect for science.

"Some people in the US completely ignore facts and science, do not pay attention to ambiguous parts of their own research and their failures in the fight against the pandemic, over and over making the buzz that a re-investigation needs to be conducted regarding China," Zhao said.

An investigation this year by the World Health Organization largely dismissed the possibility that the virus escaped from the institute, but many critics slammed the effort as lacking the wide access necessary to determine its origins.

Amid calls for a fresh probe into the origins of COVID-19, an explosive new study has found that Chinese scientists created the virus in a lab in Wuhan, then tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats.

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus has no "credible natural ancestor" and was created by Chinese scientists who were working on a 'Gain of Function' project in a Wuhan lab, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday, citing a new research paper by British professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sorensen.

Earlier this month, an explosive report by Wall Street Journal had stated that three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care after they fell ill in November 2019, a month before Beijing reported the first patient with COVID-like symptoms.