The US intelligence community (IC) has released a brief, unclassified summary of its probe into the origins of COVID-19, saying the virus was unknown to the Chinese government prior to the outbreak in Hubei in late 2019.
“The IC assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China, in December 2019,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report released on Friday.
“In addition, the IC was able to reach broad agreement on several other key issues. We judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way. Finally, the IC assesses China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged,” the report continues.
Turning to the various hypotheses about how that initial exposure happened, the ODNI noted that both natural exposure and a laboratory-associated incident “are plausible.”
Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council assessed with low confidence that the virus made the jump to humans by natural exposure to an animal infected with either SARS-CoV-2 or a virus almost identical to it.
One IC element assessed with moderate confidence that exposure “was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
The report also notes that three IC elements said they lacked the necessary information to draw any type of conclusion.
“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19,” the report concludes. “Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States. These actions reflect, in part, China’s government’s own uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China.”
In a statement accompanying release of the report, the White House said that China has “critical information” it has “worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community” from accessing from the beginning. “To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continue to rise,” it adds.
“The world deserves answers, and I will not rest until we get them. Responsible nations do not shirk these kinds of responsibilities to the rest of the world,” the statement said.
Read the full story on Daily Sabah