James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Joe Biden orders spies to "redouble" efforts to investigate if Covid escaped a lab
27 May 2021, 05:27
President Joe Biden has told US intelligence bosses to "redouble" efforts in their investigation into the origins of Covid-19 – including the possibility it leaked from a lab in China.
His administration had previously pushed back on the idea as a fringe theory, but is now turning up the pressure on the Chinese government for more transparency.
Mr Biden, who asked intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days, said in a statement that the majority of the intelligence community had "coalesced" around two scenarios – that Covid either emerged from a lab accident or naturally through human contact with an infected animal in Wuhan.
However, Mr Biden said the community "do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other".
The president has been criticised for not being tough enough on China. He has told US labs to help the investigation and asked spies to prepare questions for the Chinese government.
His predecessor, Donald Trump, and Republicans have promoted the idea the virus escaped a lab.
Mr Biden said two agencies have leaned towards the human contact with an infected animal theory, while one "leans more toward" the lab leak theory, "each with low or moderate confidence".
"The United States will also 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 and evidence," he added.
"The failure to get our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of Covid-19."
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the administration supports a new World Health Organisation investigation in China but for it to be effective, it "would require China finally stepping up and allowing access needed to determine the origins".