Published: 14:28, July 3, 2023 | Updated: 15:14, July 3, 2023
Report: No proof to support theory that virus originated from Wuhan lab
By Minlu Zhang in New York

US intelligence agencies fail to discover evidence genetic engineering could have caused COVID-19 pandemic

The United States’ intelligence agencies find no evidence that the COVID-19 virus originated from China’s Wuhan research lab, a new declassified report says.

The claim of a COVID-19 lab leak theory from a laboratory in Wuhan dates back to the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its supporters point to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, which has been studying coronaviruses for over a decade.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, recently released a 10-page declassified report and said they found the coronaviruses known to be used in the WIV “were too distantly related to have led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2”, which is the specific coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The report said the Intelligence Community, or IC, found no information indicating that any genetic engineering work done in the Wuhan lab “has involved SARS-CoV-2, a close progenitor, or a backbone virus that is closely related enough to have been the source of the pandemic”.

The IC, which includes more than a dozen government agencies such as the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, found that the work done by the Wuhan lab together with the People’s Liberation Army “was intended for public health needs”, the report said.

“We continue to have no indication that the WIV’s pre-pandemic research holdings included SARS-CoV-2 or a close progenitor, nor any direct evidence that a specific research-related incident occurred involving WIV personnel before the pandemic that could have caused the COVID pandemic,” the report said.

The report release comes three months after US President Joe Biden signed a bill into law demanding a clearer explanation of intelligence information on COVID-19 origins.

The IC then looked into the origins of COVID-19, but has been divided on an outcome.

Five agencies of the IC believe that COVID-19 was most likely caused through natural exposure to an animal infected with the COVID-19 virus or a closely related virus, while the FBI and another agency favor a lab leak theory. CIA and another agency remain unable to determine the origin of the virus.

The ODNI report also said it found no evidence supporting recent allegations that three scientists at the Wuhan lab were among the earliest individuals infected with COVID-19 and potentially involved in the creation of the virus.

A US intelligence report in 2021 indicated that three researchers from the Wuhan lab fell ill with symptoms of the virus and common seasonal illnesses. They sought treatment at a hospital in 2019 just ahead of the outbreak.

The report said the intelligence agencies found “no indications that any of these researchers were hospitalized because of the symptoms consistent with COVID-19”. One researcher might have been hospitalized in that time frame for treatment of a nonrespiratory medical condition.

The report also cited a report from the World Health Organization published in March 2021 that WIV officials said lab employee samples all tested negative for the COVID-19 virus antibodies.