Biden okays bill to declassify intelligence info on Covid origins

by IANS |

Washington, March 21 (IANS) US President Joe Biden has signed a bill to declassify intelligence information on the origins of the Covid pandemic, which has so far claimed more than seven million lives globally.

"Today, I am pleased to sign into law, the 'Covid-19 Origin Act of 2023'," Biden said in a statement on Monday.

"We need to get to the bottom of Covid-19's origins to help ensure we can better prevent future pandemics. In implementing this legislation, my administration will declassify and share as much of that information as possible, consistent with my constitutional authority to protect against the disclosure of information that would harm national security," he said.

Under the new legislation, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has 90 days to declassify all information on possible links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origins of Covid.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been a major centre of coronavirus research, reported.

The push to make public classified information on the origins of the pandemic comes after the US Energy Department, last month, concluded with "low confidence" that the Covid-19 virus leaked out of a laboratory in China.

In 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also agreed to the lab leak claim with "moderate confidence".

Earlier this month, FBI director Christopher Wray told Fox News that the pandemic likely began with a lab incident in Wuhan, China.

"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan," Wray was quoted as saying. "Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab."

In 2021, Biden had directed the Intelligence Community to use every tool at its disposal to investigate the origin of Covid-19 in 90 days.

In the report, the intel agencies concluded that the coronavirus had not been developed as a biological weapon, but could not determine if it had infected humans as a result of contact with animals or from a laboratory accident.

It added that, without new information, intelligence agencies would not be able to offer a better judgement on whether the virus emerged via animal-to-human transmission or a lab leak.

Biden in his statement said that the "work is ongoing".

"My administration will continue to review all classified information relating to Covid-19's origins, including potential links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology," he added.

More than two years after the pandemic, the origins of Covid-19 remain unclear.

It has been a political and scientific debate with scientists and politicians globally contending that the coronavirus jumped into people from bats, or have been leaked from a laboratory.

A recent analysis conducted by international scientists found the deadly pandemic may have originated in raccoon dogs from the Wuhan market in China.

They found genetic material from racoon dogs in samples from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market that tested positive for Covid.

While the analysis didn't prove the racoon dogs were infected with the virus, it provides some additional data that is consistent with a possible virus spillover from animals to people.

The study was based on samples from GISAID -- an international database, however, soon after the samples disappeared from that database.

The World Health Organization has called on Beijing to release those samples.

Latest News
Wrestling mess: IOC condemns police action against wrestlers, urges IOA to protect athletes Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 04:27 PM
Lenovo launches new 'Legion Pro' series of gaming laptops in India Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 04:26 PM
Typhoon Mawar likely to bring torrential rain to Japan's Okinawa Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 04:25 PM
Indo-Canadian charged with laundering bitcoin worth over $24 mn in US Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 04:24 PM
Setback for Ashneer Grover, wife as HC refuses to stay probe against them in BharatPe fraud case Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 04:23 PM
Palaniswami slams Shivakumar over announcement of Mekedatu dam Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 03:51 PM
BJP in UP to focus on 'beneficiaries' again Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 03:29 PM
Moldova presses for quicker EU accession ahead of European summit Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 03:11 PM
Efforts on to make India-Nepal ties 'superhit', says PM Modi Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 02:59 PM
Ather announces new e-scooter '450S' with 3 kWh battery pack Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 02:55 PM
Anti-harassment service Block Party exits Twitter amid API modifications Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 02:52 PM
WTC Final: 'Australian team will be talking about Virat, Pujara', says Ricky Ponting on India's key to success at The Oval Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 02:23 PM
Canada's real GDP grew 0.2% in April Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 02:09 PM
Boys indulge in 'PDA' on scooty in UP district Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 01:58 PM
Security tightened at Delhi borders following SKM's nationwide protest call Thu, Jun 01, 2023, 01:46 PM