Coronavirus not developed as ‘biological weapon’: US intelligence
By Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA): The coronavirus was not been developed as a “biological weapon,” according to a report by the US intelligence community (IC) on Friday.
“The IC assesses that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December 2019,” said an unclassified summary of the IC assessment on the origins of the virus that was released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Noting that all agencies assessed two plausible hypotheses — natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident — the report stressed that the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of the virus.
“Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council assess with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 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 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2,” it said, adding that analysts “give weight” to Chinese officials’ lack of foreknowledge, numerous vectors for natural exposure and other factors.
On the other hand, one IC element assessed “with moderate confidence” that the first human infection of SARS-CoV-2 “most likely” was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“These analysts give weight to the inherently risky nature of work on coronaviruses,” it said.
Meanwhile, analysts at three IC elements “remain unable to coalesce” around either explanation without additional information, with some favoring natural origin, others a laboratory origin and some seeing the hypotheses as equally likely.
The report revealed variations in analytic views largely stem from differences in how agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications, and intelligence and scientific gaps.
“The IC judges they will be unable to provide a more definitive explanation for the origin of COVID-19 unless new information allows them to determine the specific pathway for initial natural contact with an animal or to determine that a laboratory in Wuhan was handling SARSCoV-2 or a close progenitor virus before COVID-19 emerged.”
It emphasized that the IC and the global scientific community “lacks” clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases.
Obtaining information on the earliest cases that identified a location of interest or occupational exposure may alter the evaluation of hypotheses, said the statement.
“China’s cooperation most likely would be needed to reach a conclusive assessment of the origins of COVID-19. Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information and blame other countries, including the United States,” it said.
The report concluded that the above mentioned actions reflect, in part, the Chinese government’s “own uncertainty” about where an investigation could lead, as well as its “frustration” that the international community is using the issue to exert political pressure on China.
[Archive Photo: Citizens lay flowers as they mourn Dr Li Wenliang, a whistleblower on the Coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. He died of Covid-19. Photo taken on February 7,2020 in Wuhan, China. Photographer: Stringer/ AA]
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