COVID-19 May Have Stemmed From Wuhan Lab Leak, US Energy Department Concludes With 'Low Confidence'

A generic image of a technician working at a laboratory.
A generic image of a technician working at a laboratory.Getty

The U.S. Department of Energy has now joined the FBI in its belief that COVID-19 likely began as a leak, though sources have reportedly clarified that COVID-19 is still not believed to be a result of a Chinese bioweapon.

The Energy Department is now concluding with “low confidence” that the COVID-19 pandemic “likely” originated from a laboratory leak, the Wall Street Journal first reported, citing a classified intelligence report provided to the White House and key lawmakers.

The Energy Department, which was previously undecided as to the origins of the virus, has now joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its belief that COVID-19 likely began as a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese lab that worked on coronaviruses.

Deborah Birx, who served as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator under President Donald Trump, tells Inside Edition she agrees that a lab leak is the most likely explanation. 

"It would be a one-in-a-million, one-in-a-billion chance that it came out of an animal able to infect humans at this rate," Birx says. 

The Energy Department is one of 18 agencies that make up the intelligence community, and four other agencies including the National Intelligence Council have concluded the virus’ origins were likely natural transmission, according to a 2021 announcement. Among those undecided as to whether the pandemic began as a result of a lab leak or natural transmission, is the Central Intelligence Agency, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some experts have found the Energy Department’s declaration to be significant due to the agency’s oversight of many U.S. labs, according to the Wall Street Journal. But others have disagreed due to interagency disagreements, NBC News reported, citing sources with direct knowledge.

The classified report maintains COVID-19 was not a result of a Chinese bioweapon and was likely accidentally leaked, according to NBC News.

The conclusion by the Energy Department, however, is not definitive indication of the virus’ origins. National security advisor Jake Sullivan clarified in an interview with CNN about the report that there were “a variety of views in the intelligence community” and “right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question.”

The intelligence community's 2021 inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, as ordered by President Joe Biden, was largely inconclusive, stating that they "remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident," 

Many, including Birx, blame the difficulty in determining the virus' origins on China's lack of transparency. "If China had been more transparent in October, November, December of 2019, we could have worked together as a global community and gotten the truth," she tells Inside Edition.

More than 1.1 million Americans and 6.8 million people worldwide have died as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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