Covid lab origin theory gains traction in United States

Led by the USA, pressure is mounting for a new probe into the origins of Covid-19 after a World Health Organization (WHO) mission to China, beset by delays and dogged by political baggage, returned inconclusive findings. According to CNN, previously overlooked Chinese data on extensive screening of animals for coronavirus around the time the pandemic erupted is among several areas identified for further study by World Health Organization scientists investigating the origins of the virus, as per a source.

However Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC the failure to find the intermediary species believed to have brought the virus to Wuhan added to the speculation.

The previous coronaviruses that infect humans, SARS and MERS, quickly traced back to civets and camels.

Initially, the expert report said a theory involving the virus leaking from a lab was "extremely unlikely".

"The question for a lot of people is going to be when are too many coincidences too much?" he asked. And that's something we have called for many, many times, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The theory was again catapulted into the spotlight earlier this week when a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) exclusive report claimed three employees from the laboratory were hospitalised with a seasonal illness in November 2019, citing a U.S. intelligence report.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the WHO is hosting the annual World Health Assembly (WHA).

Those involved in the probe that was shuttered say that it was an honest effort to look into whether China's biological weapons program could have played a role in the pandemic's origin, according to CNN.

'For nearly 18 months, health and care workers all over the world have stood in the breach between life and death, ' WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the opening of the organisation's main annual assembly.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology in a statement on March 23 had said that the premier lab had not been exposed to COVID-19 before December 30, 2019, and a "zero-infection" record is kept among its staff and graduate students so far.

The long-delayed report, by the team of worldwide experts sent to Wuhan and their Chinese counterparts, drew no firm conclusions on the origins of the pandemic.

"We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data", a group of researchers from top USA universities wrote in a letter published by the journal Science in mid-May.

"To me it was obvious from the beginning but I was badly criticised, as usual".

However, many experts are still cautious.

"It is absolutely accurate the intelligence community does not know exactly where, when, or how Covid-19 virus was transmitted initially", US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said last month during a congressional briefing.

"Many of us feel that this is likely to be a natural event, as it happened before", Forch told reporters on Tuesday.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo had previously stated the US had significant evidence to indicate the virus had leaked from the lab.

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