American intelligence officials said Thursday that they agree with “the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” and that it was originally transmitted from animals to humans.
Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that the virus was accidentally released by a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where it first emerged.
The intelligence community “will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, led by Richard Grenell, said in a statement.
Trump and his allies have called for an investigation into the origins of the virus in an escalating campaign to pin blame for the pandemic on China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested, without citing evidence, that the virus may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a theory that many scientists have disputed. Pompeo said China should be held accountable for release the virus on the rest of the world although critics say the strategy is intended to deflect blame from the U.S. government’s late start in recognizing the threat.
“We don’t know precisely where this virus originated from,” Pompeo said Wednesday during a State Department press briefing. He complained that the Chinese government had not allowed U.S. scientists to access the lab, a high-security biomedical facility in Wuhan. Pompeo said it’s unclear if the lab has adequate safety precautions.
In a March 17 paper published by Nature Medicine, five scientists from the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia, said the scientific evidence shows the virus was not purposefully manipulated and that it most likely came from an animal.