Biden accuses China of hiding ‘crucial information’ on origin of Covid-19

Joe Biden accused China of withholding “crucial information on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic” after the publication of the summary of a US intelligence investigative report still proving unable to decide on the issue.

“The report of the American intelligence community shows that the United States is determined to take the wrong path of political manipulation,” the Chinese embassy in the United States reacted on Saturday in a statement. “The intelligence community’s report is based on a presumption of guilt on China’s part, and only to make China a scapegoat.”

This classified top secret report was submitted this week to the US president, who had given the intelligence services 90 days to “redouble their efforts” to explain the origin of the pandemic.

According to a summary released on Friday, intelligence could conclude that SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the virus, had not been developed “as a biological weapon”, and was “probably” not “genetically engineered”. “.

But they remain divided between the hypothesis of a first case caused by natural exposure to an infected animal, or having resulted from a laboratory accident.

“Crucial information on the origins of the pandemic exists in China, and yet from the start, government officials in China have been working to prevent international investigators and global public health actors from accessing it,” the US president charged. in a press release.

– No “definitive” explanation –

In detail, four intelligence agencies and the National Intelligence Council believe with “a low degree of confidence” that the animal thesis is the most “probable”.

They are based in particular on “the many vectors for animal exposure” that exist. They also put forward “that Chinese officials had no prior knowledge of the virus before the start of the epidemic”.

However, another intelligence agency considers with “a moderate level of confidence” that the thesis of a laboratory leak is to be favored, “probably” via “experiments, the handling of animals, or samples by the Institute. of Wuhan Virology “.

Here, experts give more “weight” to the “inherent risk” of the coronavirus research, which was being conducted in Wuhan. The hypothesis would be that this work could have led to the accidental infection of an employee.

Finally, “analysts from three agencies” do not decide between one or the other of the hypotheses.

The intelligence services consider themselves “unable to provide a more definitive explanation” without “new information” provided by Beijing.

– “Transparency” –

“To this day, China continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to climb,” blamed Joe Biden. “Our efforts to understand the origin of this pandemic will not falter,” he promised.

A team of international experts sent by the WHO traveled to Wuhan in January 2021 for a “first phase” study into the origin of the virus. But their report, written in collaboration with Chinese specialists, had been widely criticized.

The study estimated that passage of the bat virus to humans via an intermediate animal was the most likely scenario. She considered “extremely unlikely” that the virus came from a laboratory.

In mid-August, China rejected the WHO’s call for a new investigation on its territory.

Determining how the virus, which has claimed more than 4.47 million lives worldwide, passed to humans is considered crucial in trying to prevent the next pandemic.

The hypothesis of a laboratory leak had largely been ruled out at the start of the pandemic by the scientific community.

But the famous intermediate animal remaining untraceable, this thesis had returned in force in the American public debate in the spring.

In mid-May, around fifteen experts had published an article in the prestigious journal Science calling for it to be seriously considered.

Gradually, however, the scientific community seems to be backtracking. Last week, in this same journal, six scientists published an article with the telling title: “the animal origin of SARS-CoV-2”.

And in another scientific publication, Cell, 21 eminent researchers concluded: “There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 originates from a laboratory.”

Source: AFP

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