US intelligence agencies are divided over origins of the virus

Safety personnel to guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of the coronavirus COVID-19 pay a visit to the institute in Wuhan in The central Chinese province of Hubei on February 3, 2021.

Hector Retamal | AFP | .

WASHINGTON – US intelligence community said it is divided over the exact origin of COVID-19 in China, a revelation that comes three months after President Joe Biden’s request more in-depth review.

An intelligence agency said it evaluated with moderate confidence that the virus has infected humans after a laboratory-related accident, according to a report released Friday afternoon. Four agencies said they reached low-confidence assessments of the virus’s natural origin.

The report did not name the agencies.

“After examining everything available intelligence reports and more information, however, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies evaluate two hypotheses to be plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and an accident associated with the laboratory, ”the nation’s 18 intelligence agencies wrote. in the report.

The report, drawn up by the Office of the director of National Intelligence, found that the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Intelligence community also he assessed that Chinese officials lacked foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak that triggered a global pandemic.

The report said the intelligence community would not be in able to achieve a more definitive conclusion unless it receives more information.

Biden, in a statement after the report was released, said the United States and its allies will continue to pressure China to disclose more about what happened when Covid first started to spread.

“Critic” information on the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, but from the beginning, government officials in China has worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public Health community to access it, “Biden said.

“The world it deserves answers and I will not stop until we have them “, the president added.

In May, Biden asked intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” within 90 days in hopes of find a “definitive conclusion” about the origins of the virus.

The nation’s intelligence agencies estimate that Covid was first exposed to man in November 2019 close to city of Wuhan in The Chinese province of Hubei. The first known cluster of cases have been reported in December.

After first case was reported in the United States in January 2020, the virus has since infected more of 38 million Americans and killed more of 630,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, more of 215 million people have been infected with the virus and about 4.5 million have died, according to JHU data.

Earlier this week, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that it was still unclear whether the virus leaked out of a Wuhan laboratory.

“The vast evidence from other perspectives says no, this was a natural virus, “Collins said.” Not to mention it couldn’t have been secretly studied at the Wuhan Institute. of Virology is obtained out of there, we don’t know about that. But the virus in itself does not have the appropriations of having been intentionally created by human being work. “

Collins added that the World Health Organization investigation of the origin of the coronavirus was made more difficult than China’s refusal to participate.

“I think China basically refused to take in consider another WHO survey e just said, ‘No, I don’t care,’ “Collins told” Squawk Box. “

In July, China rejected a WHO proposal for a second-phase origin investigation of the coronavirus, which would include audits of laboratories and markets in the city of Wuhan.

“We will not accept a tale origins tracing plan, in how much, in some aspects, disregard common sense and challenge science, “Zeng Yixin, deputy minister of the National Health Commission told reporters on July 22.

“Let’s hope the WHO is serious review considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the trace of the origin of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific issue, and get rid of it of political interference, “Zeng said.

– CNBC Rich Mendez contributed to this report from New York.

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