- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2021

Republican senators introduced legislation Thursday requiring the U.S. government to declassify any information about potential links between the coronavirus pandemic and a Chinese laboratory.

Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Mike Braun of Indiana proposed the COVID-19 Origin Act of 2021 amid lingering questions involving the provenance of the pandemic more than a year since it started.

The first known cases of COVID-19, the contagious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, were reported in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, although the exact origin of the outbreak remains unclear.

Mr. Hawley and Mr. Braun speculate the pandemic may have potentially started within the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a laboratory where scientists have studied other coronaviruses not unlike COVID-19.

If successful, their bill would compel the U.S. director of national intelligence, currently Avril Haines, to declassify “any and all information” involving potential links between the lab and virus.

“For over a year, anyone asking questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology has been branded as a conspiracy theorist,” Mr. Hawley said in a statement announcing the COVID-19 Origin Act.

“The world needs to know if this pandemic was the product of negligence at the Wuhan lab but the [Chinese Communist Party] has done everything it can to block a credible investigation,” he said. “That’s why the Biden administration must declassify what it knows about the Wuhan lab and Beijing’s attempts to cover up the origin of the pandemic.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, would have 90 days to declassify its findings about the pandemic’s origins and submit them to Congress should the Senate bill succeed.

ODNI declined to comment on the COVID-19 Origin Act when reached by The Washington Times. The White House did not immediately respond to a message seeking the administration’s opinion of the bill.

Globally, over 140 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported since the outbreak started. That includes more than 30 million cases in the U.S., where more than 500,000 Americans have died from it.

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