A crucial question has eluded governments and health agencies around the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began: Did the virus originate in animals or leak from a Chinese lab?
Now, the U.S. Department of Energy has assessed with “low confidence” in that it began with a lab leak, according to a person familiar with the report who wasn’t authorized to discuss it. The report has not been made public.
But others in the U.S. intelligence community disagree.
“There is not a consensus right now in the U.S. government about exactly how COVID started,” John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday. “There is just not an intelligence community consensus.”
The DOE’s conclusion was first reported over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal, which said the classified report was based on new intelligence and noted in an update to a 2021 document. The DOE oversees a national network of labs.
White House officials on Monday declined to confirm press reports about the assessment.
In 2021, officials released an intelligence report summary that said four members of the U.S. intelligence community believed with low confidence that the virus was first transmitted from an animal to a human, and a fifth believed with moderate confidence that the first human infection was linked to a lab.