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But we’re as far as ever from knowing how this virus, which shut down the world, came to be — which is as frightening as anything, since there’s growing suggestions that it didn’t just occur naturally, as many experts have long argued.
The US, with increasing urgency, is calling for more study, warning about the stakes for future pandemics, and more openly considering the idea that mistakes or an accident in a Chinese lab caused the Covid-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden said Wednesday he has directed the US intelligence community to redouble its efforts in investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and report back to him in 90 days.
A US intelligence report found that several researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill in November 2019 and had to be hospitalized, a new detail about the severity of their symptoms. It’s not clear the researchers contracted Covid-19 and the lab strongly denied the report, calling it a lie to push the so-called lab-leak theory for the disease origin.
Scientists affiliated with the institute have previously said the institute did not come into contact with Covid-19 until December 30.
The US had actually provided some funding for the study of coronaviruses and their transmission through bats, which had made it to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would have been a “dereliction of duty” not to fund earlier coronavirus research in bats in China.
“You don’t want to study bats in Fairfax County, Virginia, to find out what the animal-human interface is that might lead to a jumping of species,” Fauci said, adding the US had to go “where the action is.”
Separately, at the White House, Fauci said many scientists still believe the disease occurred naturally, but it’s also imperative to get to the bottom of it with more investigation.
An adviser for the World Health Organization, Jamie Metzl, said the lab-leak theory is possible while scientists were “poking and prodding and studying” viruses with the good intention of developing vaccines.
“Then I believe what possibly happened was there was an accidental leak followed by a criminal cover-up,” said Metzl, who served in the Clinton administration in the US Department of State and is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the US, also said this week he is not convinced the disease occurred naturally and pushed for more investigation.
That is the takeaway here: There needs to be more investigation.
The official word on the origin of Covid-19 is not good enough
An in-depth study conducted by the WHO with the Chinese government, published in March, explored different possible origins of the disease and concluded that while it was not yet provable how the disease evolved, it was likely it was transferred to humans either directly from bats, or more likely fro
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