The assumption that coronavirus originated from a lab in China is very much alive. US President Joseph Biden on Thursday (May 27) sought a full-fledged investigation into the origins of COVID-19 and asked officials to “double check” the charge that the virus was manufactured in a laboratory in Wuhan city of China.
At present, more than 16.8 crore cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide and at least 35 lakh deaths reported.
What does Biden want and why?
US President Biden has asked his team of investigators to conduct “additional follow-up” and submit a report on the origin of COVID-19 pandemic in 90 days. The President said he wants to know if “it (virus) emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident”.
Biden, who has sought such a report for the second time, justified his renewed demand for probe saying the intelligentsia in the US was divided on the origin of the coronavirus – whether it passed from animals to humans or was made in a lab. The President wants investigators to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion”.
“US will keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based international investigation and to provide access to all relevant data & evidence,” said Biden on the investigation.
Even before Biden ordered a full-fledged probe, senior members of his administration had been giving feelers that suggested the ‘lab leak theory’ was still doing the rounds. President’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci had recently remarked that he was no longer confident COVID-19 had developed “naturally”.
US secretary for health and human services Xavier Becerra had asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) to conduct a “transparent” probe to find out the virus’s origins.
Trump says, ‘I said so…’
Biden’s decision to probe deeper into the ‘lab leak theory’ may have caused uneasiness in the Chinese camp, but it sounds almost like a vindication of former US President Donald Trump’s insistence that the virus did originate in a lab in Wuhan and was originally intended to be used as a bioweapon.
Also read: What Wuhan scientists’ symptoms could tell us about COVID origins
A day before, Trump wrote in an article in the New York Post: “I said so…To me it was obvious from the beginning, but I was badly criticised, as usual. Now they are all saying: ‘He was right.’”
Beijing, meanwhile, has expressed its disappointment over the investigation. “Smear campaigns and blame shifting are making a comeback, and the conspiracy theory of ‘lab leak’ is resurfacing,” the Chinese embassy in the US said in a statement on Thursday.
After repeated verbal attack from the then US President Trump, China had tried to counter attack by suggesting that COVID-19 could have originated in a US laboratory instead.
In its statement, the Chinese embassy said it supported a full investigation into “some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world”.
Also read: Has Coronavirus emerged from a lab? That theory is possible, say scientists
The full truth may never be known, but if the US finds conclusive evidence of a lab leak, it will put a real strain on US-China relationship for years to come.
It was mostly accepted till date that the virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan. Scientists concluded that the virus first passed to humans from animals. Of late, media reports in the US suggested otherwise, supporting former President Donald Trump’s assertion that the virus did leak from a Chinese lab, may be accidentally.