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Origin of Covid-19 sparks controversy: New assessment reveals information

Three years after the pandemic began, experts are still debating what caused the spread of the coronavirus.

The debate about the origin of Covid-19 is still on the table as scientists evaluate new information that may clarify doubts.

“We want to know what led to this so we can try to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”

Stanford University infectious disease specialist and microbiologist Dr. Those words from David Relman echoed the national conversation about the pandemic’s origins in 2021.

Did it come from a lab? Is it zoonotic transmission? Anything else? Of course, with time, an answer will become clear.

But now, three years after the start of a pandemic that is still upending daily life, the U.S. Department of Energy’s assessment adds to the confusion about what really happened in Wuhan, China in late 2019.

According to a recently updated classified intelligence report first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, the department estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic may have arisen from a laboratory leak in China.

However, two sources said the department assessed in the investigative report that there was “low confidence” that the coronavirus escaped accidentally from a laboratory in Wuhan.

Intelligence agencies can make assessments with low, medium or high confidence; And a low confidence rating usually means that the information obtained is not reliable or is too fragmented to make a very solid analytical judgment or there is not enough information to make a strong decision.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan acknowledged on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that the intelligence community is divided on the issue, noting that President Joe Biden has poured over evidence to get to the bottom of the security issue.

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The intelligence community has been divided over the issue for years.

In 2021, the intelligence community declassified a report that four intelligence community organizations estimated with little confidence that the virus could jump from animals to humans naturally in the wild.
Epidemiology was estimated with moderate confidence as a result of a laboratory accident.

According to the community statement, the other three components of the intelligence community cannot gather any explanation without additional information.

The lab leak theory is gaining traction

For much of 2020, proponents of the lab leak theory had to contend with claims they were racist or xenophobic, thanks to the anti-China rhetoric of then-President Donald Trump, who embraced the theory.

An investigation launched by Trump’s State Department into whether China’s bioweapons program may have played a large role in causing the outbreak in Wuhan was shut down early in the Biden administration.

A letter from public health experts published in the influential scientific journal The Lancet in February 2020 set the tone by declaring that the virus was of natural origin.

But the lab leak theory has gained more traction over time, especially after the intelligence community found evidence that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had become seriously ill with a mystery virus in November 2019, and it was unclear whether they contracted Covid. -19, and no evidence has come to light to corroborate that statement.

By July 2021, senior Biden administration officials overseeing an intelligence review of the sources believed the lab leak theory was at least as credible as the possibility that the virus could have emerged naturally, with Democrats publicly downplaying such an idea. .

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“There is no definitive answer.”

The latest intelligence assessment was presented to Congress at a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing for further investigation of the theory, while accusing the Biden administration of downplaying its potential.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday that he was “pleased” that the Energy Department “finally came to the same conclusion that I’ve already come to.” (The Texas Republican Party released a report in 2021 that showed a ā€œpreponderance of evidenceā€ that the pandemic stemmed from a leak from a Wuhan laboratory.)

“Now is the time for the entire Biden administration, the Department of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and most Americans to publicly conclude what common sense said early on: The Covid-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory leak in Wuhan, China,” McCaul said in a statement.

Sullivan said Sunday that Biden had ordered national laboratories, which are part of the Department of Energy, to participate in the assessment.

“At this time, no definitive answer has come out of the intelligence community on this question,” Sullivan said.

Past epidemics arose from natural transmission through animals, and it took months or years to find a host through which the virus had adapted to infect humans.

In some cases, such as the Ebola virus, the original natural source has not been identified. More than 40 years have passed since the first cases of Ebola.

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