White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said that the Biden administration will continue to push China for more information on the origins of COVID-19 as the “lab leak” theory has gained steam.
Psaki addressed a full room of 49 seated journalists for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down US social life. None of the reporters wore face masks and many stood crowded alongside the seats, marking a return to normalcy after severe access limits for more than a year.
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Psaki to explain the US plan to compel China to release early data on COVID-19 when China failed to do so as part of an initial World Health Organization review.
“I don’t think we just give up that easily. We are going to continue to press — in coordination with the international community — [for] China to be transparent to be forthcoming with data and information,” Psaki said.
“We’re not going to just stand by and accept that they’ve said they’re not going to participate. Now at the same time, as you know, we’re also launching our own review and our own process and I’m certain this will be a topic of discussion as the president is overseas this week.”
Psaki added, “We will continue to work through the WHO and also with our international partners to exert that pressure and ensure that we’re all going to keep pressing for them to release the underlying data and participate in the second stage of this investigation.”
Biden last month ordered a 90-day review by US spy agencies of whether the virus could have emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after facing weeks of pressure to pursue a robust US-led probe.
The lab-release theory gained traction recently when The Wall Street Journal reported that three employees at the Wuhan lab fell so ill that they were hospitalized in November 2019 — just before the first reported COVID-19 cases.
A subsequent US intelligence community statement said one US spy agency “leans more toward” the lab leak theory, but that two others lean toward the explanation that the virus emerged naturally in animals.
A preliminary World Health Organization study controlled by China this year concluded the virus likely emerged naturally.
Chinese officials have flippantly denied accusations that negligence in China is to blame for the pandemic. The Chinese embassy in DC said in a recent statement that US facilities might also have to be probed to determine the cause of the outbreak, even though it began in Wuhan, China.
“We support a comprehensive study of all early cases of COVID-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world,” the Chinese embassy said, appearing to reclaim a widely scorned claim by a Chinese spokesman that the US military released the bug.