Covid-19 roundup: President Biden orders intelligence community to redouble efforts to determine if virus originated in animals or a lab in China
The brewing controversy over the origins of Covid-19 erupted on Wednesday as President Joe Biden ordered the US intelligence community and government labs to double down on their efforts to reach a consensus over 2 competing theories in the next 90 days.
As of now, Biden said in a statement released by the White House, the intelligence community is divided into 2 camps: 1 that believes the virus likely originated in animals in China and jumped to humans, and 1 that believes it likely resulted from a lab accident in China.
I have now asked the Intelligence Community to redouble their efforts to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days. As part of that report, I have asked for areas of further inquiry that may be required, including specific questions for China. I have also asked that this effort include work by our National Labs and other agencies of our government to augment the Intelligence Community’s efforts. And I have asked the Intelligence Community to keep Congress fully apprised of its work.
Chinese officials have vehemently denied that the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China had anything to do with the outbreak, which quickly spread around the world and killed more than 3 million people. Doubts were planted early on, though, as officials were barred from China when they set out to learn more about the origins of the pandemic. And recently the theory about a lab accident has gained traction in Washington — with NIAID chief Anthony Fauci saying he’s uncertain about the origins and that it deserves a closer investigation — after an initial pushback from the experts to the heated rhetoric on this offered by Donald Trump.
Fauci testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) pressed him on why the NIH funded research at the Wuhan institute in the first place. Fauci explained that the bats that have coronaviruses are located in China, and not elsewhere so the research was necessary. Kennedy also questioned how NIH knows that China didn’t lie about what research was conducted there and Fauci said NIH has seen the results of the studies, although he can’t guarantee that they haven’t lied.
“Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus,” Fauci said.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) also introduced a bill on Wednesday to require the Director of National Intelligence to declassify information relating to the origin of Covid.
The inquiry is being conducted against a backdrop of increasingly volatile trade talks with China, threatening to spark a confrontation over the virus that could spill into other arenas.
EMA to health providers: ‘insufficient evidence’ that inhaled corticosteroids help with Covid-19
The European Medicines Agency’s Covid-19 task force said Thursday that there is currently insufficient evidence that inhaled corticosteroids are beneficial for people with COVID-19.
“Although the taskforce found no safety risks from studies so far, it could not exclude the possibility of harm from the use of inhaled corticosteroids in patients with COVID-19 who have normal levels of oxygen,” EMA said. But the agency also noted that clinical trials do still support the use of dexamethasone, a systemic corticosteroid, in patients with Covid-19.
Russia’s Supreme Court rejects Gilead lawsuit over unauthorized remdesivir generic
Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit from Gilead challenging the Russian government’s decision last year to allow the development of a generic version of remdesivir without Gilead’s consent, Reuters reported.
Earlier this week, Russia shipped 225,000 packs of the generic, known as Remdeform, to India as part of its humanitarian aid contributions, and more may be on the way.
WHO to member states: Please support the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool
Tedros Adhanom, the director-general of the WHO, and Costa Rica’s president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, on Thursday sent a letter to all member states, calling on them to improve equitable global access to Covid-19 health technologies through the voluntary pooling of knowledge, intellectual property and data to support technology transfer and rapidly expand manufacturing throughout the world in need.
“As a global community we must leverage C-TAP’s potential to accommodate different stakeholders and provide timely, sustainable, and effective solutions to promote access and accelerate local production,” the letter says.
Separately, the WHO also announced Thursday that Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the next six weeks to get second doses to all who received a first dose within the 8—12-week interval recommended by the WHO.
“To date, 28 million COVID-19 doses, of different vaccines, have been administered in Africa, which represents less than two doses administered per 100 people in Africa,” WHO said.
Another 200 million doses of any vaccine are also needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September, the nonprofit added.
For a look at all Endpoints News coronavirus stories, check out our special news channel.