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US Energy department points at lab leak as the most likely origin of the Covid-19 pandemic: Details

The report was submitted to the White House and key members of Congress. Notably, earlier, the Energy Department report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines's office in 2021 had said the virus's origin was inconclusive.

The United States Energy Department, in its latest classified intelligence report, has concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely originated from a laboratory leak. The report was submitted to the White House and key members of Congress. Notably, earlier, the Energy Department report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’s office in 2021 had said the virus’s origin was inconclusive.

While different parts of the intelligence community highlighted the possible origin of the pandemic from a lab in China, National Intelligence Council and four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still believe that it was a natural transmission. The Energy Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have concluded an accident at a lab resulted in the pandemic. Two agencies, including Central Intelligence Agency, have not given any conclusive reason.

Notably, the Energy Department oversees a network of US National Laboratories, including those that conduct advanced biological research. Its expertise, along with the new intelligence, resulted in the conclusion submitted in the report. According to the report in Wall Street Journal, the judgment was made with “low confidence”.

WSJ noted that the US Intelligence Community comprises eighteen agencies, including Energy, State and Treasury Departments. National Intelligence Council and eight others participated in the Covid-origins review.

The report has not been made public, and WSJ quoted unnamed people who have read the report. One of the unnamed US Intelligence officials told WSJ that the update was done in the light of new intelligence, further study of academic literature and consultation with non-government experts.

Earlier, the FBI stated in its report with “moderate confidence” that Covid-19 resulted from a lab leak in 2021. The agency held its position in the latest report. Notably, the FBI has a long list of experts, including microbiologists, immunologists and other scientists who analyze anthrax and other possible biothreats.

While the details of the new intelligence based on which the Energy Department reached a conclusion are unknown, the updated document noted that the intelligence officials are in the process of putting the pieces together over the origin of Covid-19. People familiar with the matter told WSJ that the report reaffirmed that the spread was not a result of a biological weapons program under the Chinese Government.

In a statement, the US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are part of the Energy Department, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here.” He added that the intelligence community has different views on the origin and claims insufficient information. He refused to confirm or deny the new update while speaking to CNN.

It is believed that the Covid-19 virus first circulated in Wuhan, China, back in November 2019. However, experts have different views on when it began. Initially, it was said that the virus jumped from animal to human as it happened in the past. As time passed by, the scientists could not zero down on a host animal. The focus slowly shifted to the coronavirus research happening in Wuhan and the possibility of a lab leak.

There were assumptions that the virus originated from the seafood market in Wuhan. However, later the scientists said it could be the ground zero for the community spread but not the place where the first human infection happened. On the other hand, while limiting the investigations by the World Health Organization, China claimed the virus emerged outside China.

In the 2021 report, the Intelligence analysts stated that China has a flourishing trade in a diverse set of animals that may carry unknown pathogens. Thus, it was possible that the Chinese government did not have foreknowledge of the virus. Some scientists have also argued that the virus possibly emerged naturally and jumped from an animal to a human.

On the other hand, a 2018 report from the US State Department and internal Chinese documents showed the biosafety procedures of the labs in the country possessed high levels of concern. Many labs in China mushroomed after the SARS epidemic of 2002, including campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

Globally, 75,72,64,500+ cases have been reported so far since the pandemic began. In the last seven days, 10,48,235 cases have been reported. The United States, Japan and China have reported over 5,00,000 cases in the last seven days. A total of 68,50,594 people have lost their lives affecting the US, Brazil and India the most in terms of deaths.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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