lab leak | 

FBI report finds Covid virus leaked from ‘Chinese government-controlled lab’ in Wuhan

China ‘has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate’ efforts to identify the source of the global pandemic

FBI Director Christopher Wray© AFP via Getty Images

A customer buys fruit at a local market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province© AFP via Getty Images

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

The director of the FBI has said an investigation into the origins of the Covid pandemic have revealed that it was most likely the result of a leak from a “Chinese government-controlled lab”, in Wuhan, China.

Director Christopher Wray added that the Chinese government has allegedly worked to undermine the damning results which were based on the agency's initial findings from 2021.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Wray told Fox News. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”

It is the first public confirmation of the FBI's classified judgement of how the pandemic virus emerged.

Mr Wray's comments come a day after the US ambassador to China called for the country to "be more honest" about Covid's origins.

A customer buys fruit at a local market in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province© AFP via Getty Images

In his interview on Tuesday, Mr Wray said China "has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate" efforts to identify the source of the global pandemic.

"And that's unfortunate for everybody," he said.

Some studies suggest the virus made the leap from animals to humans in Wuhan, possibly at the city's seafood and wildlife market.

The market is a 40-minute drive from a world-leading virus laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which conducted research into coronaviruses.

But the FBI first came to the conclusion of a likely lab leak back in 2021, saying it had “moderate confidence” that the pandemic that gripped the world was a result of an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Wray said the work was conducted by top experts in the FBI and US government who specialise in monitoring potential outbreaks.

“The FBI has folks, agents, professionals, analysts, virologists, microbiologists, etc, who focus, specifically, on the dangers of biological threats, which includes things like novel viruses like Covid, and the concerns that in the wrong hands some bad guys, some hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal, the threats that that could pose,” Wray said.

“So here, you’re talking about a leak at a Chinese government-controlled lab that killed millions of Americans, and that’s precisely what that capability was designed for.”

Earlier this week China's foreign ministry pushed back at an Energy Department's analysis that also suggested the outbreak likely originated with a leak from the Chinese research lab in Wuhan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning accused unnamed parties of trying to smear or vilify China.

“Certain parties should stop rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicising origins-tracing,” she said during a press briefing on Monday.

She referred to Chinese cooperation with investigating agencies, although in 2021 China rejected a World Health Organisation effort to hold a second phase of its investigation. The group has denied abandoning its inquiry amid China's obstacles..

On Sunday, the Energy Department, which maintains a group of national labs, joined the FBI in the possibility of a lab leak as the possible origin of the virus – although it reached the conclusion with “low confidence” as numerous other agencies back a traditional spread originating in the environment.

The Energy Department's report revealed it reversed its previous position and has used new research to conclude that the Covid-19 virus most likely leaked from a Chinese research lab.

The new conclusion was issued in an update to a 2021 document prepared by the director of National Intelligence and was recently provided to White House lawmakers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

While the Energy Department joined the FBI in saying the virus likely spread from a lab in Wuhan, four other agencies are still said to favour the “natural spill over” theory that the virus escaped via an animal at a nearby meat market.

Two agencies, one of which is the CIA, are yet to declare a definitive position.

With the mixed conclusions coming from US agencies, the White House has been forced to admit the lack of a consensus.

On Monday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that US President Joe Biden supports "a whole-of-government effort" to discover how Covid began.

But he added that the US still lacks a clear consensus as to what happened.

"We're just not there yet," he said. "If we have something that is ready to be briefed to the American people and the Congress, we will do that."

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