COVID-19 outbreak origin likely from 'lab leak' in China: Report
The United States (US) Energy Department has reportedly determined that the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak likely started in China from an accidental lab leak. The department, which was earlier unsure of the virus outbreak's origin, now joins the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) view that the coronavirus likely happened due to a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Why does this story matter?
- The origin of the pandemic has always been the subject of debate among academics, lawmakers, and intelligence experts. The COVID-19 virus first circulated in the Chinese city of Wuhan no later than November 2019, per the US 2021 intelligence report.
- Notably, the emergence of the global pandemic also heightened strains between China and the US.
Know about US Energy Department's new report on COVID-19 origin
The latest development was noted in an update to a 2021 report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office, as per reports. The National Intelligence Council (NIC) and four other bodies assess at "low confidence" that the coronavirus pandemic started from a natural transmission from an infected animal. However, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and another unnamed agency remain unsure.
Here's why Energy Department's new finding is significant
The Energy Department's finding is the result of new intelligence and is noteworthy, given that the agency has significant scientific expertise and oversees a network of American national laboratories. Reportedly, the department's insights come from its national laboratories network, some of which perform biological research other than traditional forms of intelligence like communications intercepts or spy networks.
Energy Department ranks it at "low confidence": Know more
Individuals who allegedly read the classified report said that the Energy Department ranks it at "low confidence," claimed The Wall Street Journal. In contrast, the FBI ranks its 2021 conclusion at "moderate confidence" that the pandemic originated from an accidental lab leak. However, both the FBI and the Energy Department arrived at those conclusions separately based on distinct factors.
Energy Department spokesperson reacts to new reports
Speaking to an American news outlet Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for the Energy Department said on Sunday: "The Department of Energy continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the president directed."
Some elements in intelligence community have reached conclusions: Sullivan
Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor, was also quizzed about the new reports about the pandemic's origin. "There is a variety of views in the intelligence community. Some elements in the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other," Sullivan told news outlet CNN. "A number of them have said they just don't have enough information to be sure," he added.
Wuhan seafood market might not be outbreak's origin
In an unexpected turn of events, reports indicated that no confirmed animal source of the coronavirus pandemic had been identified, despite the fact that Wuhan is the focal point of China's extensive COVID-19 research. Notably, the report from 2021 hypothesizes that the novel virus outbreak at a seafood market in Wuhan was most likely the result of community spread rather than the outbreak's origin.
China's stance on COVID-19's origin
Meanwhile, China has always disputed the Westen claims that the coronavirus might have leaked from one of its labs in the country and claimed that its origin is elsewhere.