President Joe Biden said on Friday that China was withholding “critical information” about the origins of Covid-19 after the U.S. intelligence community said it did not believe the virus was a biological weapon – but remained divided on whether he had escaped from a lab.
The United States, however, does not believe Chinese authorities had prior knowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of the pandemic which has now claimed 4.5 million lives, according to an unclassified summary of a highly intelligence report. expected.
“Critical information on the origins of this pandemic exists in the People’s Republic of China, but from the start Chinese government officials have worked to prevent international investigators and members of the global public health community from accessing it. Biden said in a statement. .
“To this day, the PRC continues to reject calls for transparency and withholding of information, even as the toll of this pandemic continues to rise. “
US intelligence has ruled out that the coronavirus was developed as a weapon, and most agencies assess with “low confidence” that it was not genetically modified.
But the community remains divided over the pathogen’s origins, with four agencies and the National Intelligence Council ruling in favor of natural exposure to an animal as a likely explanation, and one agency promoting the theory of lab leaks.
Analysts from three agencies could not draw any conclusions.
“Variations in analytical views largely stem from differences in how agencies assess intelligence reports and scientific publications, and gaps in intelligence and science,” the summary said.
The intelligence community and global scientists lack clinical samples or epidemiological data from the first cases of Covid-19, he added.
Biden said the United States will continue to work with its allies to pressure Beijing to share more information and cooperate with the World Health Organization.
“We need to have a full and transparent account of this global tragedy. Anything less is acceptable, ”he said.
The office of the director of national intelligence said it was considering declassification parts of the report in the near future, in light of the historic nature of the pandemic and the importance of informing the public, while protecting its sources. and its methods.
– Discoloration of laboratory leaks –
Beijing has rejected calls from the United States and other countries for a new origin investigation after a highly politicized visit by a World Health Organization team in January also proved inconclusive and has been criticized for lack of transparency and access.
At the start of the pandemic, the hypothesis of natural origin – that the virus would have emerged in bats and then passed to humans, probably via an intermediate species – was widely accepted.
Then, as time passed and scientists were unable to find a virus in bats or another animal that matches the genetic signature of SARS-CoV-2, investigators said they were more willing to consider a leak involving the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which researched the bat coronavirus.
However, recent scientific articles shift the debate towards a zoonotic origin.
Researchers in China and at the University of Glasgow published an article in the journal Science which found that “Animal-to-human transmission associated with infected live animals is the most likely cause of the Covid-19 pandemic “.
Additionally, an article by 21 leading virologists in the journal Cell concluded bluntly: “There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin. “
© 2021 AFP