Once considered a wild conspiracy theory of the Covid-19 virus resulting from the Wuhan Institute of Virology Lab leak, it has now been confirmed as true by a report from the U.S. Department of Energy. On February 26, a five-page document released by the Energy Department came as an addition to the 2021 report by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines’ office. The conclusion now made by the agency is that the virus was an accidental lab leak, now marks a shift from its earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus had emerged. The recent claims have made the Energy Department the second such U.S. agency to arrive at this conclusion. The Wall Street Journal has said that the report agrees with the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the virus likely spread from a mishap at the Chinese laboratory. The update reaffirmed that the virus spread was not a result of natural transmission.
The latest conclusion has come forth due to the new intelligence, scientific expertise, and an overseas network of U.S national laboratories which conduct advanced biological research and consultation with experts outside the government. According to WSJ, a senior U.S. intelligence official confirmed this. However, U.S. Government officials have denied commenting on the new conclusion by the Energy Department and how it changed its position. In an interview with CNN on February 26, U.S. National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, neither rejected nor confirmed the update by Energy Department. He 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 figure out what happened here.”
However, according to the New York Times, few officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the update was not prompted by Congress but by Republican lawmakers pursuing their investigations into the pandemic’s origins and pressing the Biden administration and the intelligence community for more information.
Stanford microbiologist, David Relman, told the Wall Street Journal, “Kudos to those who are willing to set aside their preconceptions and objectively reexamine what we know and don’t know about COVID origins. The plea is that we do not accept an incomplete answer and do not give up due to political impendency.’’ An Energy Department spokesman declined to discuss details of its assessment but wrote that the agency “continues to support the thorough, careful, and objective work of our intelligence professionals in investigating the origins of COVID-19, as the President directed.” The FBI also declined to comment.
The new document has already ignited tensions between the United States and China. China has hit back at the United States for stirring up the Lab Leak Theory and has urged the U.S. to “stop smearing China” and “politicizing the origins of Covid-19”. On February 27, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said, “lab leaks are extremely unlikely as an authoritative scientific conclusion, made by Chinese and WHO experts after visiting laboratories in Wuhan and conducting in-depth exchanges with relevant researchers.”