China lab leak ‘most likely’ caused COVID outbreak, FBI director says
The director of the FBI has said the agency believes COVID-19 “most likely” came from a lab leak in China.
“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Christopher Wray told Fox News.
Mr Wray said he could not share many details of the agency’s assessment because they were classified.
He accused the Chinese government of “doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate” efforts by the US and others to learn more about the pandemic’s origins.
His remarks come after the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Energy Department assessed with low confidence that the pandemic resulted from an unintended lab leak in China.
The agency said the virus was not being engineered as part of a weapons programme.
Four other agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, still believe the pandemic was likely the result of natural transmission, while two are undecided.
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US has not reached definitive conclusion
On Monday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US government has not yet reached a definitive conclusion and consensus on the pandemic’s origins.
The World Health Organization’s (WHO) official position, according to a 2021 report, is that it is “extremely unlikely” the virus came from the Wuhan lab – but did not completely rule it out.
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It said the most likely explanation was that the virus originated in a bat before crossing to an intermediary animal and then jumping to humans.
Responding to the Wall Street Journal report, the Chinese foreign ministry pointed towards a natural origin for the pandemic rather than a lab leak.