Washington: US intelligence community (IC) has said that they may never be able to make a meaningful progress on tracing the origins of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, unless China is more forthcoming with data and information, especially those pertaining to the early cases that were detected in the first epicentre of the virus, Wuhan.
The chances of getting more cooperation from China on the issue were slim as Beijing continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries, US intelligence has concluded, because China is uncertain where the investigation could lead to, and also because it feels the issue is to exert political pressure on it.
The Office of the Direction of National Intelligence (ODNI) released on Friday a new, more detailed version of their review of whether the coronavirus came from animal-to-human transmission or leaked from a lab. The report was given to President Joe Biden in August. ODNI oversees 18 intelligence agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Security Agency (NSA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The slim 17-page document bears out the key findings that were widely reported back in August: that the Sars-CoV-2 emerged and infected humans through a small exposure no later than November, 2019, and the first cluster of infections was reported in December; the virus was not developed as a biological weapon or genetically engineered, and the Chinese did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the outbreak.
But, the community remains unclear on the key question of the origin of the pandemic—the main task assigned to them by Biden in May.
The report also gives details of the discussion and disagreements within the intelligence community on the findings, without identifying the agencies.
Four of them and the National Intelligence Council assess with 'low confidence' that initial infection was most likely caused by 'natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus—a virus that probably would be more than 99 per cent similar to SARS-CoV-2'.
One agency assessed with 'moderate confidence' that the first human infection 'most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident', probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of the controversy.
Analysts at three agencies remained unconvinced about either hypotheses.