WASHINGTON — House Republicans have probed a panel of scientists into the origins of the Covid pandemic, pushing the theory that the virus most likely came from a laboratory leak at a Wuhan research center, China, while acknowledging that there was no definitive evidence to support how the virus originated.

Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield, who was one of three witnesses called by committee Republicans, reiterated his belief that the virus likely originated in the Chinese laboratory based on its structure and the previous work that the laboratory had done. It’s a claim Redfield has made publicly before.

“Based on my initial analysis of the data, I came to believe and continue to believe today that it indicates that COVID-19 was more likely the result of an accidental laboratory leak than the result of a natural indirect event,” Redfield said. to committee. . “This collusion is based primarily on the biology of the virus itself.”

There has been a renewed debate about the origins of the virus after recent reports on the evaluations of various federal agencies. FBI Director Chris Wray said in an interview with Fox News last month that the FBI believes Covid likely originated from a «potential laboratory incident» in Wuhan, but that the Chinese government has hampered its investigation. in progress. The US Department of Energy concluded with «low confidence» that the Covid pandemic «probably» originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, according to a classified report delivered to key lawmakers in January in Intelligence committees. of the House and the Senate.

Biden called on intelligence officials in 2021 to redouble efforts to discover the origins of the virus. In a report issued later that year, at least one US intelligence agency concluded that the Covid-19 virus might have arisen from a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China, but the US intelligence community. It remains divided on the origins of the virus and the report said the agencies are unlikely to be able to provide a more definitive explanation without significant new information.

“I would love for this thing to be from nature. I would love it, it would be better for all of us,” said Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, who chairs the committee. «But I can’t help but look at this and say there’s another possibility here.»

Democrats and Republicans on the committee seemed to agree that it was important to understand how the virus originated and that more research is needed on the subject, though they differed on how to approach it.

“It appears that the minds across the aisle are closed and reconciled on origins and have chosen their villain,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Cali. «If we really want to follow the evidence, the truth is that the evidence as we have it now is inconclusive.»

Redfield accused top public health officials, including former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci, of suppressing the debate about the origins of the virus in the early months of the pandemic and instead pushing the theory of that the virus had evolved in nature. jump from animals to humans.

“When you have a group of people deciding, there can only be one point of view that is problematic. And I’ll keep saying it’s the antithesis of science and unfortunately that’s what they did,» Redfield said.

Republicans on the committee appeared to embrace such criticism, with committee members accusing Fauci of pushing for the publication of an investigative paper promoting the theory that the virus developed naturally and of keeping Redfield out of key discussions because to his support for the laboratory leak theory.

fauci has saying he believes that the evidence shows that the virus probably originated in nature, but that all theories need to be investigated and he is open to the possibility of a laboratory leak.

Along with Redfield, the committee also heard testimony from Jamie Metzl, an infectious disease researcher and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council; Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; and Nicholas Wade, former editor of the journals Nature and Science.

Democrats on the committee sought to shift the conversations to questions about the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, highlighting comments made by former President Donald Trump who praised China early in the pandemic.

The House is expected to vote on legislation this week to declassify all information related to the origins of Covid.

With Republicans now holding a majority in the House, they are expected to continue holding hearings around the pandemic. Last month, a separate committee held a hearing on the Biden administration’s response to the covid-19 pandemic with a focus on vaccine mandates and mask recommendations.

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