What Intelligence Community Report Says About COVID-19 Laboratory Leak Theory
The intelligence community’s report on the origin of COVID-19 neither blamed the Wuhan Institute of Virology nor exonerated the Chinese lab.
After 90 days of “redoubling” efforts to bring the world closer to how the pandemic began, the intelligence community has still not been able to come to a consensus on the origin. While much of the report is still classified, the summary that has been released shows that the hypothesis of a lab leak cannot be ruled out, leaving the world essentially in the same place it was months ago. .
What the intelligence community has come to a consensus on is that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies have united around the belief that it was not genetically modified, although two agencies believe there is not “sufficient evidence” to assess this possibility anyway.
At least one agency that contributed to the report said it had “moderate confidence” that the pandemic started as a laboratory-related incident, likely originating from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Four other agencies said they believed the pandemic was occurring naturally and three were unable to side with either hypothesis as some analysts favored one origin or another and some believed both were also likely.
To come to a “conclusive assessment” of the origin of COVID-19, the intelligence community has said it will likely need China’s cooperation. However, the report noted China’s resistance to further investigations, as well as its reluctance to share information and blame the United States for the outbreak.
“These actions reflect, in part, the Chinese government’s own uncertainty as to where an investigation might lead as well as its frustration that the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China,” the report said.
At the start of the pandemic, scientists dismissed a lab leak as a fringe conspiracy theory that should be avoided due to the blame it might throw on Chinese scientists. While many scientists still believe this is the least likely explanation for the pandemic, investigations into all possible theories have been supported in recent months.
Much of what has fueled the recent increase in support for examining the laboratory leak theory are reports that Chinese scientists were sick with flu-like symptoms in the fall of 2019. China has denied that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had COVID-19, which, if true, would make it very difficult for the virus to escape from the lab.
The joint WHO-China mission has been tasked with trying to identify the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. After weeks of research, the team determined that the most likely scenario was for COVID-19 to evolve naturally from animals to humans, and the least likely scenario was for the virus to come from a lab.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the team had problems accessing data while in China and some expressed concerns that the report was based on information provided by China.
In an interview with Lesley Stahl of CBS, Peter Daszak, who was part of the WHO-China mission team, said there were Foreign Ministry staff in the room “at the very least. throughout our stay “. He said they were there to make sure that “everything was going well on the Chinese side.”
Stahl countered, saying Chinese officials may be in the room to make sure scientists and researchers aren’t “telling you the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Daszak denied that there was any reason to believe the people they worked with were covering up anything and said the team had “no problem” distinguishing between a political and a scientific statement.
Other efforts to investigate the origin of COVID-19 have stalled, according to experts who have been summoned by the WHO to investigate the problem. In a commentary in the journal Nature, the team reiterated that their Chinese counterparts were “reluctant to share raw data” due to concerns about patient privacy and pushed for further investigation.
“The window of opportunity to conduct this crucial investigation is closing quickly: any delay will make some of the studies biologically impossible. Understanding the origins of a devastating pandemic is a global, science-based priority,” the team wrote.
China has denied being responsible for blocking the process and Fu Cong, director general of China’s Foreign Ministry, said the country “has always supported and will continue to participate in science-based origin search efforts.”
Chinese authorities have also questioned the role of the intelligence community in tracing the origin. Cong said on Wednesday that blaming China for the pandemic would meet with a “counterattack.”