The US intelligence community has said the Covid-19 virus was “not man-made or genetically modified,” as reports suggest Donald Trump is warring with spy agencies and pushing the theory that the virus came from a Chinese lab.
In a rare statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said Thursday that the US intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus” that the novel coronavirus was “not man-made or genetically modified.”
The ODNI said it would “continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence” to determine whether the outbreak first began through contact with infected animals – or whether it could have been “the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”
The rather vague statement comes on the same day a report in the New York Times suggested Trump administration figures are pressuring US spies to “hunt for evidence” that the virus came from a Chinese lab. The president has apparently sought to publicly shift the blame for the pandemic squarely onto Beijing in recent weeks, likely in an effort to redirect criticism of his administration’s handling of the US outbreak, ahead of the presidential election in November.
The US has become the worst-affected country from the pandemic, with over one million confirmed cases of the disease and more than 61,200 deaths nationwide.
While Trump has claimed that the lab theory “seems to make sense,” there is still no actual evidence, however, to support the speculation that Covid-19 was created in (or had somehow escaped from) a Chinese lab. The World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier this month that while it was not possible to determine the precise source, all available evidence suggests that it had its origin in animals. So far, this also appears to be the overriding theory among the world’s scientists.
Nonetheless, Trump has floated the suggestion that China could be “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic, insisting that if this were the case, there should be “consequences” for Beijing.
While US agencies are still investigating, Australian intelligence officials said this week that, while it can’t be ruled out, they’ve found no evidence to support the Wuhan lab theory – and that the most likely source for the outbreak was still the Huanan Seafood Market.
The US military has also examined the claims that the virus came from a lab, but concluded that “the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural” origins. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US coronavirus task force doctor, has also said the virus most likely jumped from animals to humans.
It is not clear how long US intelligence agencies will spend investigating the ‘lab accident’ theory.
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