In May, President Joe Biden thrust the previously deemed “fringe” Wuhan lab-leak theory into new focus as he ordered US intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including any possibility the probe might lead to a Chinese laboratory, and report back within 90 days.
As the deadline of the 90-day probe into the origins of COVID-19 ordered by President Joe Biden approaches, the US intelligence community remains divided over the two existing theories, reports CNN.
One suggests the respiratory virus originated from a lab in Wuhan, China, while the other one claims it jumped naturally to humans from animals. After three months of frantic research and data scouring, US intelligence officials have already drafted a classified report, claim three sources cited by the outlet. However, its current version, at the preliminary review stage, contains “nothing too earth shattering,” said a source.
In May, Biden instructed US intelligence agencies to “redouble” their efforts to investigate how the virus that triggered the global pandemic originated, including the possibility that it escaped from a lab in China.
Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have promoted the theory that the virus emerged from a laboratory accident.
AP Photo / Cheng MinThis Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, shows medical workers in protective suits at a coronavirus detection lab in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. The fresh national figures for the disease that emerged in China in December came as the number of viral infections soared mostly in and around the southeastern city of Daegu, where they were linked to a local church and a hospital.
Biden said in a statement at the time that the majority of the intelligence community had “coalesced” around those two scenarios but “do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”
Once initial reviews are completed, the draft report could still undergo significant changes, claim sources cited by the publication. The president had also instructed the intelligence officials to declassify as much of the report as possible.
Last week, CNN reported that intelligence agencies had reviewed genetic data drawn from virus samples at the lab in Wuhan that some believe could have been the source of the outbreak. However, it was not clarified whether officials have finished analysing that data.
Photo : The Central Hospital of WuhanMembers of the medical staff work at the Central Hospital in Wuhan, China (File)
But ultimately, amid what US officials insisted was China’s refusal to share information dating to the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, they were cited as being pessimistic throughout the probe about finding “a smoking gun” that would solve their dilemma.
The report, being reviewed both by the intelligence community and outside experts, is set to be finalised later in August, according to sources familiar with the probe. Besides the classified version, an unclassified one will enable the Biden administration to share findings with the public, writes the outlet.
If the report continues to be as inconclusive as sources claim it to be in its current version, the White House may consider launching another investigation, officials were cited as acknowledging.
It also reportedly remains unclear if Washington will call out Beijing publicly over the potential findings once its ongoing 90-day probe is concluded.
Biden’s move to launch the investigation came after a US intelligence report found several researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology had supposedly fallen ill with an unidentified disease in November 2019 with symptoms similar to those caused by the virus and had to be hospitalised.
While a World Health Organisation (WHO) mission to Wuhan in March noted that the laboratory origin claim was “extremely unlikely,” Washington believed there was “still-unexamined evidence.”
Beijing slammed the US probe, and Biden for “trying to let the intelligence services draw scientific conclusions.”
REUTERS / THOMAS PETERStaff members in protective suits stand at Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine where members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are visiting, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 29, 2021.