Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday called for countries to embrace COVID-19 “transparency” and “accountability” – without directly calling out China’s refusal to come clean about the origins of the pandemic.
Harris made the remark while announcing that the Biden administration would give $250 million to a new World Bank pandemic preparedness fund and request another $850 million from Congress.
“To avoid the mistakes of the past and meet this present moment, we must also ensure transparency and accountability to ensure that all countries meet our global health obligations,” Harris told a United Nations-organized web conference.
“To that end, the United States also supports a global health threats council that would monitor progress and identify gaps. It is yet another step we must take to ensure that political leaders remain committed to the goal of preparedness.”
US spy agencies last month assessed it’s “plausible” that the deadly virus leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2019.
Although President Biden said in a written statement on Aug. 27 that China must be transparent about COVID-19 origins, he rarely mentions it publicly and the communist-run country has refused to cooperate with a World Health Organization investigation. A preliminary and widely scorned WHO review that was controlled by China said the virus likely emerged naturally from animals.
And White House press secretary Jen Psaki has declined to say if Biden pressed for pandemic transparency during a 90-minute call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sept 9. Psaki previously said Biden doesn’t support former President Donald Trump’s demand that China pay $10 trillion in reparations for allowing the virus to spread by concealing early data.
Documents published this month by The Intercept revealed that US health officials indirectly funded research at the Wuhan lab that sought to better understand viruses by manipulating them — including modifying three bat coronaviruses distinct from COVID-19 and discovering they became much more infectious among “humanized” mice when human-type receptors were added to them.
The documents boosted a theory that “gain of function” research may have caused the pandemic.
Trump claimed during the presidential campaign last year that China would “own” the US if Biden won, in part because of his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China. The first son reportedly still owns 10 percent of an investment fund controlled by Chinese state-owned entities. The fund was formed 12 days after Hunter Biden joined his father aboard Air Force Two for a December 2013 trip to Beijing.
Harris spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic as other international controversies buffeted the Biden administration — including a US-Mexico border crisis, with about 10,000 Haitian citizens crowded under a bridge near Del Rio, Texas. Harris was tapped by Biden in March to address the “root causes” of illegal immigration, but the number of apprehensions continued to grow.
House Democrats on Tuesday removed a $1 billion donation to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from a bill that would increase the US national debt. The White House vowed to attach those funds to a subsequent bill, despite opposition from left-wing Democrats.