Washington: US President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered US intelligence agencies to submit a report on the origin of Covid-19 in the next 90 days, the media reported.
In a statement, Biden said the intelligence community delivered a report to him earlier this month that showed it was divided on the origins of the pandemic. He said that the two "elements" of the community lean toward animals being the source, while one leans toward a lab origin, "each with low or moderate confidence."
"Here is their current position: While two elements in the IC (intelligence community) leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter -- each with low or moderate confidence -- the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other," Biden was quoted as saying.
As part of that report, Biden has asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China.
Biden also directed the agencies to "redouble their efforts" while making it clear that the agencies had not reached a consensus on how the virus originated.
Biden's statement indicates that his administration takes seriously the possibility that it was accidentally leaked from a lab, as well as the prevailing theory that it was transmitted to humans by an animal.
The statement follows top health officials' renewed appeals this week for a more rigorous investigation; and after growing criticism of an international team's report dismissing the possibility of Covid's accidental escape from a Chinese laboratory, the NYT said.
The White House had earlier downplayed the need for an investigation led by the US and insisted that the World Health Organization (WHO) was the proper place for an international inquiry.
A joint WHO-China inquiry, whose findings were released in March, dismissed as "extremely unlikely" the possibility that the virus had emerged accidentally from a laboratory.
The theory was further drowned by some scientists' accounts of its likely path from an animal host to humans in a natural setting, the report said.
The novel coronavirus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has since spread around the world, killing almost 3.5 million people and infecting almost 168 million, according to Johns Hopkins.