COVID ‘more likely lab leak than weapon,’ U.S. spies find
The ODNI report says four U.S. spy agencies and a multi-agency body have ‘low confidence’ that COVID-19 originated with an infected animal or a related virus
Coronavirus was not designed as a biological weapon but could have leaked from a Chinese lab, according to a declassified report from US intelligence.
The Office of the US Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said the lab leak or animal-to-human transmission were both plausible explanations for how coronavirus first infected humans.
The report, which China branded a “farce”, said agencies may never be able to identify the source of the pandemic but dismissed accusations that coronavirus was developed as a bioweapon.
Those pushing that theory have been accused of disinformation and had “no direct access” to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, it said.
One intelligence agency said it had “moderate confidence” that the first infection was probably because of a laboratory accident involving experiments and animals at the Wuhan Institute.
The report updates a review ordered by President Joe Biden amid political infighting over how much to blame China rather than governments that may not have moved quickly enough to protect citizens.
Former Republican president Donald Trump — who lost his bid for re-election as the deadly pandemic ravaged the US economy — and many of his supporters referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus”.
The Chinese embassy in Washington said: “The US moves of relying on its intelligence apparatus instead of scientists to trace the origins of COVID-19 is a complete political farce. We have been supporting science-based efforts on origins tracing, and will continue to stay actively engaged. That said, we firmly oppose attempts to politicise this issue.”
China has faced international criticism for failing to cooperate more fully in investigations of COVID’s origins.
Some US spy agencies had believed the virus originated in nature. But there has been little corroboration.
The ODNI report said four US spy agencies and a multi-agency body have “low confidence” that COVID-19 originated with an infected animal or a related virus.