Washington: The US intelligence community has failed to reach any firm conclusion on the exact origin of COVID-19 and is split on whether it leaked from a lab in China or emerged in nature, even though it does not believe the virus was developed as a biological weapon, according to results of a detailed review ordered by President Joe Biden.
The Director of National Intelligence in a report on Friday said SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
However, there was no unanimity among the intelligence community (IC) on the origins of the coronavirus.
"The virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically
engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way," said the unclassified version of the report.
The report did not name the intelligence agencies.
The IC also assesses that China's officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged, it said.
"After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident," the report said.
Acknowledging the receipt of the report, Biden in a statement said his administration will do everything it can to trace the roots of this outbreak that has caused so much pain and death around the world so that they can take every necessary precaution to prevent it from happening again.
Critical information about the origins of this pandemic exists in China, "yet from the beginning, government officials in China have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it", he said.
To this day, China continues to reject calls for transparency and withhold information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise, Biden alleged.