COVID-19 either emerged naturally or it was laboratory accident: US Intel community

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Washington, May 27 (PTI) The COVID-19 virus either emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals or it was a laboratory accident, the US intelligence community said on Thursday.

'The US Intelligence Community does not know exactly where, when, or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially but has coalesced around two likely scenarios: either it emerged naturally from human contact with infected animals, or it was a laboratory accident,' Assistant Director of National Intelligence for Strategic Communications Amanda Schoch said.

While two elements of the intelligence community lean toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter - each with low or moderate confidence - the majority of elements within the intelligence community do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other, she said.

'The IC continues to examine all available evidence, consider different perspectives, and aggressively collect and analyze new information to identify the virus's origins,' Schoch said, a day after President Joe Biden ordered the intelligence agencies to 'redouble' their efforts in investigating the emergence of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and report back to him in 90 days.

COVID-19 was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. More than 168 million confirmed cases have since been confirmed worldwide and at least 3.5 million deaths reported.

The origins of the COVID-19 remain a widely debated topic, with some scientists and politicians maintaining that the possibility of a lab leak of the deadly virus exists. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is near the outbreak's known epicentre of Huanan Seafood Market in central China’s Wuhan city, where the virus first emerged in late 2019 and became a pandemic.

Former US president Donald Trump was among those who supported the theory that the virus might have escaped from a bio lab in China.

China has been vehemently denying that the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan and took exception to Trump’s reference to it as “China virus” or “Wuhan virus”. China asserts that the COVID-19 broke out in different places in the world and China only reported the virus first. PTI LKJ ZH ZH

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