Top U.S. health official calls for follow-up investigation into pandemic’s origins

The theory that the virus came from a Wuhan lab has gained traction amid criticism of an international probe and reports that several researchers were ill in November 2019 — weeks before the virus was officially identified

 

The United States’ top health official called Tuesday for a swift follow-up investigation into the coronavirus’s origins amid renewed questions about whether the virus jumped from an animal host into humans in a naturally occurring event or escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told an annual ministerial meeting of the World Health Organization that international experts should be given “the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”

Becerra’s remarks, which were prerecorded, signaled that the Biden administration would continue to press the WHO to expand its investigation to determine the virus’s origins.

As the coronavirus ravaged the United States and much of the world last year, an early theory was that it emerged from a market in Wuhan that sold meat from wild animals raised in captivity and then swiftly spread across the globe. Experts in viral genome evolution determined that it almost certainly was not engineered as a bioweapon because it has several naturally occurring features and is closely related to a 2014 coronavirus that came from a bat in a cave in China. But they also said they could not rule out that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab that studies coronaviruses.

 

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