US President Joe Biden has reportedly received a report from the intelligence community that is “inconclusive” on the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, whether the virus transmitted from animals to humans or accidentally escaped a laboratory in China, according to a news report.
Tasked by Biden in May to produce a report in 90 days to “bring us closer to a definitive conclusion”, the intelligence community failed to arrive at a consensus, the Washington Post reported citing US officials.
A decision is expected on the public release of elements of the report in the coming days.
The debate over the origin of SARS-CoV-2 has raged around the world especially after former president Donald Trump supported those who argued it emerged from a virology lab in Wuhan city of China, where the epidemic started at the end of 2019 and then spread rapidly around the world.
Trump’s action was motivated by a desire to shift blame of his mishandling of the fightback in the US, but it was also backed by many scientists such as Robert Redfield, former chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He said he believed the coronavirus “most likely” escaped a lab.
A WHO report had earlier said the virus most likely travelled from animals to humans and that the possibility of a lab leak was “extremely unlikely”.
Efforts to conclusively ascertain the origin of the virus that has killed over 4mn people around the world, causing the largest global public health crisis in 100 years, have been marred by the lack transparency and cooperation by China.
The US intelligence community was divided as well. Biden had said in May that two agencies believed in the animal-to-human theory and a third agency went with the lab-leak possibility.
“The majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other,” the US president had said then.