UK intelligence agencies are reportedly now reviewing their position on the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a laboratory at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology.
A Sunday Times report from London quotes British spies who originally rejected the laboratory leak theory but now say it is “doable”.
“There could be evidence that leads us in one direction and evidence that leads us in another direction,” the newspaper quoted a source as saying. “The Chinese will lie either way. I don’t think we’ll ever find out.”
The quote comes as both the United States and the United Kingdom are calling on the World Health Organization to dig deeper into the possible origins of COVID-19, including a revisit to China, where the first human infections were detected.
The WHO and Chinese experts published an initial report in March setting out four hypotheses about how the pandemic could have started. The joint team said the most likely scenario was that the coronavirus jumped into humans via an intermediate animal from bats, and the prospect of it breaking out of a laboratory was rated as “extremely unlikely”.
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The Biden administration plans to step up China’s calls for greater openness to the outbreak to fend off complaints from opposition Republican senators that the president has not been tough enough and take the opportunity to press China to impose alleged obstruction.
Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have propounded the theory that the virus was caused by a laboratory accident rather than human contact with an infected animal in China.
During an interview with CBS ‘Face The Nation’ on Sunday, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that accidental laboratory leaks happen “all the time”.
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“These types of lab leaks actually happen all the time,” said Gottlieb. “Even here in the United States, we had breakdowns, and in China the last six known SARS-1 outbreaks were outside the labs, including the last known outbreak which was a fairly large-scale one that China started with, I’m not going to tell you comes from a laboratory. “
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology showed symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and required hospital treatment in late 2019.
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Meanwhile, President Biden said the intelligence services have not yet determined whether the pandemic started after humans came into contact with infected animals or because of a laboratory accident. Officials are expected to provide an updated report of their conclusions in the next few months.
Thomas Barrabi of Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.