The Biden administration has renewed calls from the United States for a more complete investigation into the origins of Covid-19, after a report last year reinforced the theory that the disease was accidentally released from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Andy Slavitt, one of the U.S. president’s coronavirus advisors, said Tuesday the investigation was conducted last year by the U.S. World Health Organization he had not done enough to explain how the disease began to spread among humans.
He spoke after a report in the Wall Street Journal reported that three scientists from the Wuhan lab were suffering from symptoms similar to Covid-19 in November, a month before the first official case was reported.
Slavitt told reporters, “We need to get to the bottom of this and we need a completely transparent process from China. We need the WHO to help in this matter. We are not like us. now. We need to get to the bottom of this, whatever the answer, and it’s a critical priority for us. ”
Scientists working for the WHO last year found that the virus was “extremely unlikely” to have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and much more likely to be spread to humans by animals.
Some scientists were quick to criticize that report, which was facilitated by China, while Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, admitted it was not extensive enough. Tedros said WHO scientists have encountered difficulty in accessing “raw data” from China, which has always denied the possibility of laboratory leakage.
The World Health Assembly, which sets the policy for WHO, is holding its annual meeting in Geneva today, at which members are expected to discuss the next phase of the organization’s investigation.
Meanwhile, claims in the WSJ have refocused attention on the theory of laboratory leakage. The newspaper said an undisclosed U.S. intelligence report said the three Wuhan Lab researchers became so ill in 2019 that they sought hospital care. On Monday the White House said it had “no means” to verify the report.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that he still believes the disease is more likely to be spread from animals to humans. “Many of us feel that this is more likely to be a natural event, as happened with Sars-Cov-1, where it goes from an animal reservoir to a human one.”
He added: “But we don’t know the 100 percent answer to that… [and] it is imperative that we watch and make an inquiry ”.