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China accuses US of ‘scapegoating’ in ‘inconclusive’ COVID origin report

“It is only fair that if the US insists that this is a valid hypothesis, they should do their turn and invite the investigation into their labs,” said Fu.

Fu said China was not engaged in a disinformation campaign.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, called for the immediate declassification of the intelligence report and for legislation authorising sanctions on China if the country fails to allow a full investigation.

“The American people deserve to know what our government does and does not know about the origins of COVID-19,” Rubio said in a statement on Wednesday, US time.

Biden made the pandemic response the top focus of the first months of his presidency, but he has grappled with a fresh surge of cases driven by the delta variant spreading rapidly among those who haven’t been vaccinated.

A research paper published in June in the online journal Scientific Reports contains data and photographic evidence supporting the theory that the outbreak stemmed from infected wild animals. It reported that several animals that can be hosts to coronaviruses were sold for years in shops across the city, including a now infamous wildlife market that has been linked to the outbreak. Biden has said that the US was looking into a potential “accident” at the lab, an implicit rejection of unsubstantiated assertions that China may have intentionally set the virus loose.

Seeking a ‘Smoking Gun’

Biden’s director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, said in a June interview with Yahoo News that the two competing theories remains a subject of debate and acknowledged there might be no firm conclusion. “We’re hoping to find a smoking gun, but it might not happen,” she said.

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A World Health Organisation report earlier this year said the most likely origin was that the virus spread to humans from bats through an unspecified intermediary animal. The White House criticised the report as incomplete and lacking crucial data, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it wasn’t “extensive enough”.

Anthony Fauci, one of the faces of the US pandemic response and an adviser to Biden, reiterated on Wednesday that he believed it was unlikely that the virus came from a lab. He also warned that uncertainty may persist, noting that the origin of the 2014 Ebola outbreak still isn’t fully understood.

Republicans have focused on the lab-leak theory. Some officials in former President Donald Trump’s administration, including his secretary of state, Michael Pompeo, and former Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, have said evidence suggested a leak from the lab.

Bloomberg, Reuters

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