Could covid-19 have originated in a copper mine?

The P4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan China | REUTERS

The P4 laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan China | REUTERS

It provides details of China's storage and destruction of positive Covid-19 samples from humans; a significant influenza outbreak that emerged in December 2019, at the same time as the virus; and the revelation that the first people known to have contracted the virus had contact with a total of 28 separate food and animal markets in December.

President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was ordering USA intelligence agencies to "redouble their efforts" to investigate the origins of COVID-19, including "specific questions for China".

China wholly rejects the theory the virus may have emerged from a virology lab in Wuhan and has instead accused the USA of peddling conspiracies and politicizing the pandemic to divert attention from the high death rates there. The lab-leak theory, which experts have said in the past was not likely, has come under increasing scrutiny.

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.

"The United States will also keep working with like-minded partners around the world to press China to participate in a full, transparent, evidence-based global investigation and to provide access to all relevant data and evidence", Mr. Biden said.

"There's nothing really new there to prove the hypothesis", he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that U.S. intelligence discovered three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised in November 2019 with Covid-19 symptoms.

He ordered intelligence agencies to "redouble their efforts" and report to him again in 90 days.

In his statement, Biden called on China to cooperate with investigations into the origins of the pandemic, but didn't echo calls from Republican lawmakers that Beijing should be held accountable if the virus escaped its lab.

A month-long investigation by a team formed by the World Health Organisation concluded earlier this year that transmission from an animal to a human was the "most likely" origin, but said a lab leak could not be ruled out. "In the investigation of the origins of the pandemic it is really important to have transparency in order to build trust in the investigation results".

Mr Zhao also said the USA must open itself up to investigations into its biological laboratories, including at the military's Fort Detrick base.

"The pandemic started in China", Metzl said.

Huang of CFR said further investigations into the origins of Covid-19 were at an "impasse". "But now the issue has become so politicised, with the stakes of the investigation so high".

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