FBI chief says COVID 'most likely' originated from Chinese lab; Beijing rejects 'politicisation' of science

It is the first public confirmation of the FBI's classified judgement of how the pandemic virus emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019

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Getty Images


FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that the bureau believes that the deadly Covid-19 pandemic was most likely caused by a "potential lab incident" at a Chinese government-controlled facility in Wuhan.

It is the first public confirmation of the FBI's classified judgement of how the pandemic virus emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident," Wray told Fox News in an interview aired on Tuesday.

Wray's comments come just days after news of the Department of Energy's "low-confidence" assessment that Covid-19 most likely originated from a laboratory leak in China.

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 located near a leading virus laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

During the interview, the FBI chief also said that China "has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate" efforts to identify the source of the global pandemic.

"I will just make the observation that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we're doing, the work that our U.S. government and close foreign partners are doing. And that's unfortunate for everybody," he said.

Wray said the FBI has specialists who focus on "the dangers of biological threats, which include things like novel viruses like COVID, and the concerns that they [are] in the wrong hands [of] some bad guys, a hostile nation state, a terrorist, a criminal."

Reacting sharply to Wray's remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China strongly opposes "political manipulation" of the origins-tracing issue in any form.

"Putting the intelligence community in charge for a matter of science is a clear sign that the issue has been politicised. Given the US intelligence community's track record of making up stories, there is little, if any, credibility in their conclusions," she said in Beijing in response to a question.

The US will not succeed in discrediting China by rehashing the "lab leak" theory, but will only hurt the US's own reputation, Mao said.

"We urge the US to respect science and facts, stop politicising this issue, stop its intelligence-led, politics-driven origins-tracing, and stop undermining international solidarity against the pandemic and global cooperation on science-based origins-tracing," Mao added.

She also pointed out that more and more clues from the international science community are pointing the origins of virus to sources around the world.

"Many have raised questions and concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world. The US should work with the World Health Organisation to invite experts from the world to the US for origins-tracing study as soon as possible, and share the research result with the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner," Mao added.

According to Johns Hopkins University's Covid tracker, the pandemic has killed more than 6.8 million people worldwide since it broke out in late 2019.

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.

"We're just not there [at consensus] 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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