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US spies say COVID-19’s origins will remain unclear without China’s help

Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
November 01, 2021

COVID-19 was probably not a biological weapon and most U.S. analysts believe it wasn’t genetically engineered at all, but a final conclusion on the virus’s origins is impossible without cooperation from China, a declassified U.S. report says.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its long-awaited public findings on the virus’s origins Friday, a declassified version of the secret report submitted to President Joe Biden this summer.

The intelligence community remains divided on where the outbreak began, but believes two causes are plausible — that it spread through animals to humans, or that it sprang from an incident at a lab in the city of Wuhan.

“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19,” according to the report. “Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries, including the United States.”

The report sets out key outstanding questions, including information about the earliest cases of COVID-19, Chinese hospital occupancy rates, and information on animals present in a series of Wuhan markets. The U.S. previously released declassified highlights of the same report.

China’s resistance to working more without other nations and outside groups to investigate the virus’s origins reflect its “uncertainty about where an investigation could lead as well as its frustration the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China,” according to the report.

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© 2021 Bloomberg L.P
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