This follows a statement on Wednesday last week in which US President Joe Biden ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the emergence of Covid-19, amid growing controversy about the virus’s origins and report to him within 90 days.
However, China’s foreign ministry accused the US of “political manipulation and blame-shifting” and has thus rejected any link between Covid-19 and a virus research lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Covid-19 was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019 and more than 168 million cases have been confirmed worldwide and about 3.5 million deaths reported since then.
Chinese officials linked early Covid cases to a seafood market in Wuhan leading scientists to theorize that the virus had first passed to humans from animals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “extremely unlikely” that the virus spread from a lab leak following a visit to Wuhan earlier this year to investigate the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
But recent US media reports have suggested growing evidence that the virus could instead have emerged from a laboratory in China perhaps through an accidental leak.
In a statement on Wednesday, President Biden said he had asked for a report on the origins of Covid-19 after taking office including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident but on receiving it this month, he asked for additional follow-up.
Biden said the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around those two scenarios but “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other”.
He said he had now asked agencies to “redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring US closer to a definitive conclusion.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then voiced his support for efforts made by the US and other countries to better understand the origins of the virus which angered Chinese officials.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it showed the US “does not care about facts or truth and has zero interest in a serious science-based study of origins”.
“Their aim is to use the pandemic to pursue stigmatization, political manipulation and blame-shifting, they are being disrespectful to science, irresponsible to people’s lives and counter-productive to the concerted efforts to fight the virus,” he said.
A statement from the Chinese embassy in the US which did not directly refer to Biden’s order, said the “smear campaigns and blame-shifting are making a comeback”.
The laboratory theory has received increased public attention in the US amid recent reports attributed to intelligence sources that say three members of the Wuhan Institute of Virology were admitted to hospital in November 2019 several weeks before China acknowledged the first case of the new disease in the community.
Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser has maintained he believes the virus was passed from animals to humans though he conceded this month he was no longer confident Covid-19 had developed naturally.