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US intelligence split on Covid-19 origins, but has no evidence it was created in Chinese lab

Source: France 24

The head of US intelligence said Friday that there was no evidence that the Covid-19 virus was created in the Chinese government’s Wuhan research lab.

A security personnel in a protective suit keeps watch as medical workers attend to patients at the fever department of Tongji Hospital, a major facility for patients of Covid-19, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 1, 2023. © Reuters

In a declassified report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said they had no information backing recent claims that three scientists at the lab were some of the very first infected with Covid-19 and may have created the virus themselves.

Drawing on intelligence collected by various member agencies of the US intelligence community (IC), the ODNI report said some scientists at the Wuhan lab had done genetic engineering of coronaviruses similar to Covid-19.

But the US “has no information” indicating they had done such work on the specific Covid-19 virus, known as SARS-CoV-2, or on any “close progenitor, or a backbone virus that is closely related-enough to have been the source of the pandemic.”

The report, made for Congress and carrying an unreleased classified annex, came three months after lawmakers demanded a fuller explanation of US intelligence’s information on the origins of the pandemic which erupted at the end of 2019.

Some lawmakers allege that the virus was created out of so-called gain-of-function genetic engineering research at Wuhan, and that Beijing had covered up evidence to show it was a man-made disease.

Reiterating a conclusion announced in March, the ODNI report said “almost all” of its constituent agencies, which include the NSA, the CIA and FBI, assess that Covid-19 was not genetically engineered and most believe as well it was not laboratory-adapted.

But the ODNI report, as in March, did not dismiss the possibility that Covid-19 was being examined in the Wuhan lab at the time and may have leaked out through carelessness.

ODNI said the intelligence community remained divided on whether the pandemic arose from a natural occurence of the virus – perhaps transferred from animals like bats – or a from lab leak.

The report said the Wuhan lab had done pathogen research and vaccine development together with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “for public health needs.”

But the coronaviruses used in this research “were too distantly related to have led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2,” the report said.

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