A US agency that manages a network of national laboratories has concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by a lab leak in China. The US energy department was earlier undecided on the source of the pandemic but has now concluded that the virus was laaked from a Chinese biotech lab.
The US Department of Energy oversees a network of 17 US laboratories, including those involved in research in advanced biology. Earlier in May 2020, the energy department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had concluded that a lab-leak theory was plausible.
The new finding by the department was part of a classified report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office, according to The Wall Street Journal. The NIC assessment was "was done in light of new intelligence, further study of academic literature and consultation with experts outside government", the Journal said in a report.
Wuhan Institute of Virology in Focus
The lab leak theory held the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China responsible for the virus outbreak that killed hundreds of more than 7 million people across the world. However, the theory was denied by China and discredited by many organizations and the US government agencies.
While former President Donald Trump and many prominent Republicans endorsed the lab leak theory, their political opponents in the Democratic party took up the other extreme and discredited the lab leak theory. The Biden administration never endorsed the lab leak theory but the president asked all US agencies to use their maximum resources to get to the bottom of the issue.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had earlier said it believed the pandemic was caused by an accident in the Wuhan lab, following which the virus leaked out.
Also, a US intelligence report in 2021 had said that Covid-19 first circulated in Wuhan in November 2019 and then spread from there. However, the opponents of the lab leak theory contented that the virus might have emerged from Wuhan, but from a wet market in the area, not the virology lab.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not sure if the virus was leaked from a Chinese lab or whether it spread through natural transmission. However, CIA had ruled out the possibility that the virus leak was part of a Chinese biological weapons program.
Meanwhile, the National Security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said after the energy department's conclusion came into the view that there was still "variety of views" within US intelligence agencies on the matter of Covid origin. "Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other, and a number have said they just don't have enough information to be sure," said, according to CNN.
The Energy Department also said it will keep the investigation on. "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," the agency said in a statement.