(CNSNews.com) – Tuesday marks the deadline for the U.S. intelligence community to deliver to President Biden an eagerly-awaited report on its investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, including an examination of the possibility that the virus could have leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Biden tasked the intelligence agencies 90 days ago to look into how the once-in-a-century pandemic began, focusing on both the animal-to-human transmission and laboratory accident theories.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that once the president has been briefed on the findings, it would likely take a couple of days for an “unclassified version” to be prepared for public release.
Asked if it would be released in full but redacted form, Psaki said she was unable to say what format the report would take.
The Chinese government has hotly rejected the theory that an accidental leak from a Wuhan lab could have been responsible for a pandemic that has caused global economic turmoil and has now accounted for more than 4.4 million deaths worldwide.
Beijing has repeatedly focused on the conclusion by a World Health Organization-convened team of experts, after a visit to Wuhan early this year, that the “lab-leak” hypothesis was “extremely unlikely” and not worth studying further.
But the U.S. government said the jury was still out on the matter, and in May Biden asked the intelligence community to investigate and report back in 90 days.
In June, G7 and European Union leaders also called for full and transparent virus origin investigations – as have many scientists – and in July WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the expert team’s earlier “extremely unlikely” assessment had been “premature,” adding that lab accidents can and do happen.
China has rejected WHO calls to include an “audit” of Wuhan labs in the second phase of its investigation into the origins of the virus.
In addition to pointing back to the WHO team’s assessment, China’s foreign ministry and state media also ramped up a campaign insinuating that a U.S. Army biolab, Fort Detrick in Maryland, was the likely culprit – an allegation first raised as early as March last year.
The drive has picked up pace in recent weeks, with millions of Chinese signing an open letter, published by the Chinese Communist Party paper Global Times, calling on WHO to investigate Fort Detrick.
Foreign ministry officials are repeating the allegations at press briefings almost every time reporters raise the origin-tracing issue.
On Monday, ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin did so again, saying he wondered when the U.S. was going to invite WHO experts to visit the Fort Detrick lab.
Wang also slammed Biden’s assignment of the investigation to the intelligence community.
“For quite some time, the U.S. has been persistently hyping up the so-called Wuhan Institute of Virology lab leak theory in disregard of the conclusion in the WHO-China study report that a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be ‘extremely unlikely,’” he said.
“It has gone so far as to ask the intelligence community to fabricate a so-called report on origins investigation,” Wang continued. “However, the U.S. cannot whitewash itself by smearing China. The U.S. keeps alleging that the virus came from a lab leak, but actually, no one merits a proper investigation more than the U.S.”
China Rejects WHO Plans to Examine Wuhan Labs in Continuing Probe of Virus Origin (Jul. 22, 2021)
As Experts Probing Virus Origin Quarantine in Wuhan, Pompeo Calls Again For Lab Scrutiny (Jan. 18, 2021)
Questions Swirl About Source of China’s Coronavirus Outbreak (Feb. 19, 2020)