A U.S. Intelligence Report Fails To Pinpoint COVID's Origins
Click to enlarge the image and toggle caption Ng Han Guan/AP Ng Han Guan/AP
The much-anticipated U.S. intelligence report about the origins and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic failed to make any definitive conclusion as to whether coronavirus was first transmitted to humans by contact with infected animals or if it was a virus that somehow got out of a laboratory.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, both hypotheses are plausible.
The intelligence community is "divided" on the likely source of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident," the brief summary states.
Three months ago, President Biden directed intelligence agencies to conduct a thorough, systematic review of all information collected. This would allow for a better understanding of the causes of the pandemic.
Biden commented on Friday that the world needs answers and that he will not rest until he gets them. To prevent future pandemics, we all need to better understand COVID-19's origins.
Biden stated that his administration will continue to pursue information about the COVID-19 pandemic's origins and criticised China for blocking international investigators access to what he called "critical" information about the coronavirus pandemic since its inception.
The intelligence analysis does not provide any conclusive evidence regarding the origin
An additional report was released earlier in the year. It was based upon a World Health Organization China investigation and did not draw any conclusions about the origin of the virus. Scientists on the trip were also unable to access key evidence. Chinese officials said that additional efforts should be made to find the source of this virus in other countries. They also rejected the possibility that it may have leaked from a Wuhan Institute of Virology lab, which is located in the same area where the first cluster of human cases were identified.
Although the U.S. intelligence review did not resolve the core question of how the virus was discovered, intelligence agencies reached "broad agreement" on several key issues, including the fact that the coronavirus had "not been developed as a biological weapons."
Biden was critical of China's refusal of sharing more information about the pandemic's early stages. However, intelligence officials determined that Chinese officials "didn't have foreknowledge" of the virus before the first outbreak of COVID-19.
Robert Garry, a Tulane University School of Medicine microbiologist, said that "that alone is significant". He stated that if Chinese officials weren't aware of it, then the Wuhan Institute of Virology wouldn't, too.
Garry says that it appears that the needle was moved more toward the natural origin by the intelligence community. "I believe that you need to examine the scientific data available. Follow the science, but don't forget the animals.
Scientists who have been trying to find the source of the coronavirus' origins were not surprised by the lack of answers in the intelligence report.
Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Arizona, says, "This is an intelligence report, and not a scientific report." He would love to see both the intelligence and scientific communities work together on this problem. "I hope that this 90-day sprint will turn into a nice, long jog where there can be some back-and forth."
As the intelligence review summary states, key clinical samples and data from early COVID-19 cases are still out of reach for both scientists and intelligence agencies. Worobey believes scientists will continue to progress even if there are no major revelations by the intelligence community.
He said, "I am hopeful there will be methods to move things forward." "And I am hopeful that China will see it in their own self-interest to find a way to end the mystery of lab leaks."
Geoff Brumfiel contributed this report