US intelligence dismisses idea virus was man-made but does not rule out China lab accident

Donald Trump continues promoting claims Covid-19 escaped a lab in Wuhan, China

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 30 April 2020 19:33 BST
Donald Trump suggests there's merit to a Fox News story about the novel coronavirus originating in a lab in China

The US Intelligence Community has dismissed conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus being man-made, while noting that investigations remained ongoing into whether the outbreak came from a Chinese lab — a claim promoted by the president.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded in a statement on Thursday that the IC “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

The statement continued: “The IC will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Reports have indicated in recent days that US spy agencies were conducting a sweeping “tasking” operation in order to determine whether Beijing and the World Health Organisation hid critical information about Covid-19 in the initial months of the outbreak.

Spy agencies have been reportedly pressed by top officials from within the Trump administration to probe links between the pandemic and research that was taking place at a medical facility in Wuhan, China, the town where the virus was believed to have originated.

Intelligence agencies “remain skeptical” about the notion that any connection between the Chinese lab and the Covid-19 pandemic can actually be made, according to the New York Times.

Theories supported by Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill have pointed blame at China for the viral outbreak, saying the disease broke out of the lab due to a fatal incident. However, many scientists have noted the likeliness that Covid-19 actually originated from animal-to-human transmissions, potentially through a bat.

“More and more, we’re hearing the story” about the Wuhan lab, Mr Trump said during a press conference earlier this month.

Analysts have said that a lack of transparency from Beijing during the initial months of the outbreak led in part to a flurry of conspiracy theories surrounding the origins of the novel virus.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also blamed China and called for more information, saying: “The mere fact that we don’t know the answers — that China hasn’t shared the answers — I think is very, very telling.”

The secretary of state and other members of the White House administration have since called on the lab to allow independent experts to conduct a review.

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