COVID-19 was likely the result of a lab leak, according to a recently updated classified report from the US Department of Energy obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
The new coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2 – first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and quickly spread around the world, killing nearly 7 million people so far. It also caused disruption to the global economy as countries closed their borders and ordered lockdowns in an effort to curb the spread of a virus for which there was initially no effective vaccine.
On Sunday, the magazine reported that the verdict on the latest confidential report came from new intelligence and was issued “with a lack of confidence.” The Department of Energy oversees a network of US laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.
The latest findings signal a shift in perspective from the US Department of Energy, which previously said it had not yet made a decision on how the virus might emerge. The officials refused to release the information that prompted the ministry to change its mind. He now joins the FBI in saying the virus may have spread after a lab accident, a conclusion the FBI reached in 2021 with “moderate confidence.”
The newspaper added that four US intelligence agencies believe with “low confidence” that COVID-19 occurred via natural transmission, while two others are undecided.
Despite the agencies’ differing analyses, the update reaffirmed the current consensus that COVID-19 was not the result of a Chinese biological weapons program, said the people who read the newspaper’s classified report.
The newspaper said the five-page report was prepared for the White House and members of Congress.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said there was still a “diversity of opinion” on the issue.
Speaking on CNN on Sunday, he noted that US President Joe Biden has repeatedly asked the intelligence community to invest in trying to find out as much as possible about the onset of the pandemic.
“President Biden specifically requested that the national laboratories, which are part of the Department of Energy, be included in this assessment because he wants to use all the tools to understand what happened here,” Sullivan said.
In mid-February, the World Health Organization (WHO) vowed to do everything it could “until we get an answer” about the origins of the virus, denying a report suggesting the agency had dropped its investigation.
After a significant delay, a team from the World Health Organization traveled to Wuhan, China, in early 2021 to visit the Huanan market where the first cluster of cases emerged and which was closed and cleaned up shortly after the virus began spreading. Working alongside the Chinese scientists, they also visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a biosafety laboratory where the researchers worked on bats.
The investigation was criticized for its lack of transparency and access, and for failing to properly evaluate the laboratory leak theory, which it deemed “extremely unlikely”. She said the most likely explanation is that the virus originated in bats before it was transmitted to an intermediate animal and transmitted to humans.
China has accused the US of politicizing the investigation and “scapegoating” the country after former US President Donald Trump called SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, the “Chinese virus”.
Finding the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is essential to better control or even prevent a new pandemic.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, insisted that all hypotheses remained on the table, and called on China to provide more access to the investigation.