FBI Director Christopher Wray has publicly confirmed the bureau’s classified judgement that Covid-19 “most likely” originated from a Chinese government-controlled laboratory. This is the first time the FBI has made such a statement, and it comes a day after the US ambassador to China called for the country to be more honest about the virus’ origins.
Mr Wray told Fox News that China has been attempting to “thwart and obfuscate” efforts to identify the source of the pandemic. He added that this is “unfortunate for everybody”. Some studies suggest that the virus made the leap from animals to humans in Wuhan, China, possibly at the city’s seafood and wildlife market, which is located 40 minutes away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
However, other US government agencies have drawn different conclusions to the FBI’s, with varying degrees of confidence in their findings. For instance, the US energy department had assessed with “low confidence” that Covid leaked from a lab, while an unclassified report released by the US top spy official in October 2021 said that four US intelligence agencies had assessed with “low confidence” that it had originated with an infected animal or a related virus.
At the height of the pandemic, the lab leak hypothesis was widely dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory and top health officials publicly rejected the idea that the coronavirus could have been created in a lab before escaping. However, after deep criticism of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) investigation, which called the lab leak theory “extremely unlikely”, the agency’s director-general called for a new inquiry, saying: “All hypotheses remain open and require further study”.
Covid-19 first emerged in late 2019 and has since led to the deaths of nearly seven million people. In response to this, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated that US President Joe Biden supports “a whole-of-government effort” to discover how Covid began. However, he also added that the US still lacks a clear consensus as to what happened and that they “just aren’t there yet”.