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US-China row intensifies over Covid origins probe

China accuses US of playing politics after Biden ordered an intel report on the origins of the virus.
By Yashwant Raj, Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Washington, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON MAY 28, 2021 06:09 AM IST
On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a possibility that the trail might lead to a laboratory in China’s Wuhan.(Reuters representative image)

A global row intensified amid renewed calls for an investigation into the origins of the Covid pandemic on Thursday, with Beijing accusing the Biden administration of playing politics and shirking responsibility, even as the US President pledged to release the findings of the US intelligence community’s probe into the matter.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” their efforts to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic, including a possibility that the trail might lead to a laboratory in China’s Wuhan.

A day later, China said the US was playing politics. Its foreign ministry said scientists from the World Health Organization (WHO) had already said that the “lab leak” theory was unlikely. The ministry dismissed the theory that the virus may have leaked from a lab as a “conspiracy”. “Some people in the United States completely ignore facts and science,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Biden later pledged to release the results of the intelligence community’s investigation into the origins of Covid-19, including the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan virology lab in China, unless it contained something he was “not aware of”. He previously ordered the community to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyse information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days”.

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He added: “As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.” “The majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one (theory) to be more likely than the other,” the US President said.

Zhao said that the US ranks first globally in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and fatalities, which have reached around 33 million and 600,000, respectively. He said the US should accept the WHO-led international investigation.

“The US side claims that it wants China to participate in a comprehensive, transparent, evidence-based international investigation,” Zhao said. “We would like to ask the US side to do the same as China and immediately cooperate with the World Health Organization on origin tracing research in a scientific manner.”

Zhao said the administration’s position came in “in total disregard of facts and science... while totally ignoring the doubts over the origin-tracing work and failure of pandemic response in the US”.

“This fully shows that the US side does not care about facts and truth, nor is it interested in serious scientific origin tracing, but wants to use the epidemic to engage in stigmatisation and political manipulation, and to shirk responsibility,” Zhao said.

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