Republicans have focused in recent weeks on blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic in the wake of lower approval ratings for Trump’s handling of the outbreak. The House GOP task force was given an October deadline to issue its report, just before the presidential election in which the virus response likely will be a central issue.
Trump has doubled down on claims that the coronavirus likely escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a laboratory that studies some of the world’s most dangerous pathogens. Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have said there is reason to believe the virus originated there though intelligence reports are less conclusive. The Director of National Intelligence issued a statement in April that the intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man made or genetically modified.”
House Democrats have established a panel to oversee spending of coronavirus relief funds that McCarthy and other Republicans have said is designed to damage the Trump administration. McCarthy on Wednesday named five GOP lawmakers to the panel, which has seven Democratic members. House minority whip Steve Scalise will lead the Republican contingent.
Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, who also was selected by McCarthy for the oversight panel, called the committee a “blatant attempt to use the coronavirus pandemic for partisan ends.”
The separate GOP task force will be led by Representative Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. McCarthy said the committee was originally supposed to be bipartisan, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats participating, before talks between the parties ended.
McCarthy says the panel will look at whether the virus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan China and that “so much of the intelligence” leads to the lab. He said an investigation also is needed into China’s decision to permit international flights out of Wuhan and for suppressing early reporting on the disease.
“There are real concerns and we want to get to the bottom of it,” he said.
The World Health Organisation on Wednesday said it’s considering a new mission to seek the source of the coronavirus in China.
“Without knowing where the animal origin is, it’s hard to prevent it from happening again,” Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said.
“There is discussion with our counterparts in China for a further mission, which would be more academic in focus, and really focus on looking at what happened at the beginning in terms of exposures with different animals,” she added.
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