US House Unanimously Passes COVID-19 Origin Act to Investigate Origins of Pandemic
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the COVID-19 Origin Act on Friday, a bill that requires the director of national intelligence (DNI) to declassify intelligence information related to the origins of the pandemic. The bill will now go to President Joe Biden’s desk for consideration.
The legislation, sponsored by GOP Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Braun of Indiana, calls on the DNI to declassify “any and all information” concerning potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19, including pre-pandemic research on coronaviruses and any researchers who fell ill during the fall of 2019.
The intelligence community has yet to come to a consensus on the origins of the pandemic. A 2021 report reflecting the findings of intelligence community was inconclusive, and determined two theories were “plausible” to explain how the virus emerged: “natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.” The Department of Energy recently concluded, with a low level of confidence, that it is possible the virus originated from a laboratory, which is in agreement with the FBI's stance.
The vote comes amidst debate between the intelligence agencies, some of which still believe the virus was passed to humans from a natural host and some of which assert it most likely had a lab-based origin.
On 8 March, the US House of Representatives conducted the opening hearing of a series of public meetings to investigate the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic noted that the issue of the source of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has become highly politicized. It has been suggested that two hypotheses should be investigated to explain the origin of the virus: one being that the virus spread from animals to humans, and the other that it was released from a lab in Wuhan, China.
The committee also heard testimony from an infectious disease researcher and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and Nicholas Wade, the former editor of Nature and Science magazines.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the US Energy Department concluded with low confidence the virus came from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, while FBI Director Christopher Wray echoed that, saying a lab leak was “most likely” the source.
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