US House votes to declassify information about Covid-19 origins

WASHINGTON: The House voted unanimously on Friday to declassify US intelligence information about the origins of Covid-19, a broad show of bipartisan support as the third anniversary of the start of the deadly pandemic approaches.
The 419-0 vote was the final approval of the bill, sending it to President Joe Biden’s office to be signed into law.
The debate was short and to the point: Americans wonder how the deadly virus began and what can be done to prevent future outbreaks.
“The American public deserves answers to all aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
This includes, he said, “how this virus was created and, more specifically, whether it was a natural event or the result of a lab-related event.”
The declassification order focused on intelligence related to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, citing “potential links” between research carried out there and the Covid-19 outbreak, which the Organization World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020.
US intelligence agencies are divided on whether a lab leak or animal overflow is the likely source of the deadly virus.
Experts say the true origin of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than a million Americans, may not be known for many years – if ever.
“Transparency is the cornerstone of our democracy,” Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said during the debate. “Because without transparency, the American people cannot put out the sounds they need to put out responsibly as citizens of a democracy.”
The Republican-led focus on the origins of the virus comes as the House kicked off a select committee with a hearing earlier in the week to explore theories about the start of the pandemic.
It offers a rare moment of bipartisanship despite often impassioned rhetoric about the origins of the coronavirus and questions about the response to the virus from US health officials, including former top health adviser Anthony Fauci.
Legislation by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has already been approved by the Senate.
If enacted, the measure would require within 90 days the declassification of “all information relating to potential links between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the origin of the coronavirus disease”.
This includes information about research and other activities in the laboratory and whether any researchers have become ill.


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