White House officials say China hasn't been 'completely transparent' in Covid origin investigation

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Security personnel keep watch outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 3, 2021.

Thomas Peter | Reuters

White House officials told reporters Tuesday that China hasn’t been “completely transparent” in the global investigation into the origins of Covid-19, and that a full investigation is needed to determine whether the virus that’s killed almost 3.5 million people came from nature or a lab.

“We need to get to the bottom of this, whatever the answer may be,” White House senior Covid-19 advisor Andy Slavitt told reporters at a Covid briefing Tuesday. “We need a completely transparent process from China, we need the [World Health Organization] to assist in that matter and we don’t feel like we have that now.”

The theory that Covid-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology was initially dismissed by most medical experts and health officials as a conspiracy theory, but credible scientists continue to question the true origin of the disease.

Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic leave The Jade Hotel on a bus after completing their quarantine in Wuhan, Chinas central Hubei province on January 28, 2021.

HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images

A previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report found that researchers at the institute in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated in late 2019, sought hospital care after falling ill “with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness,” The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, quoting from the report.

While it’s more likely the coronavirus jumped from an animal to humans, “we don’t know 100% the answer to that,” the White House’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told reporters during the same briefing call Tuesday. “It is imperative that we do an investigation.”

Last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that it is “one possibility” that Covid-19 leaked from a lab.

Peter Ben Embarek and Marion Koopmans (R) arrive at a press conference to wrap up a visit by an international team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hefei province on February 9, 2021.

HECTOR RETAMAL | AFP | Getty Images

The WHO has said that the virus likely came from an animal host, but the agency has not ruled out the possibility that it leaked from a lab.

“Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study.”



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