Senate passes resolution urging probe into COVID-19 origins
The Senate on Friday passed a resolution calling for a probe into the origins of COVID-19 amid renewed attention over a theory that the virus came from a lab in China.
The resolution, which passed by unanimous consent and was spearheaded by Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), calls for the World Health Assembly to conduct a probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation adds that if an investigation is not approved by the body, the U.S. and “willing partner governments and experts” will instead launch an inquiry.
“It’s outrageous that a comprehensive investigation on the origins of COVID-19 has still not been carried out. With the World Health Assembly meeting this week we must get a full investigation into the outbreak,” Marshall said in a statement. “If China continues on its path of cover-up, we must begin planning a full investigation, including with partners around the world.”
“There must be a thorough and transparent investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic—obstruction is completely unacceptable. Our resolution makes clear that the US believes that the previous WHO investigation was flawed, that there must be accountability, and all potential origins of this virus, including a lab leak, must be investigated fully,” added Gillibrand.
The resolution’s passage comes two days after the Senate passed legislation requiring the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to declassify information about the origins of COVID-19.
Among the information the bill would press the ODNI to declassify is any activities performed at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the lab at the center of speculation over a possible leak.
The Senate action comes as public health experts reverse previous skepticism about the prospect of a lab leak and now say there is a need for further investigation.
Chatter over the pandemic’s origins reached a fever pitch after The Wall Street Journal reported that several researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill with flu-like symptoms in November 2019, right before the pandemic’s outbreak in the city.
Still, even if the virus is connected to the lab, experts caution that does not mean the virus was manufactured there and it’s still possible the researchers were infected with the coronavirus first and then went to the lab.
The U.S. intelligence community said this week that it has “coalesced around two likely scenarios,” according to Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Strategic Communications Amanda Schoch: whether “it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals” or through “a laboratory accident.”
President Biden on Wednesday asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the disease’s origins, calling on it to report back to him within 90 days.
“As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China,” Biden said in a statement. “I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.”