FBI director says Covid-19 most likely came from Chinese lab

FBI director Christopher Wray's remarks follow reports that an Energy Department determined that the virus was the result of a lab leak. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) director Christopher Wray said the Covid-19 virus most likely originated from a “potential lab incident” in Wuhan, China, contradicting scientific claims that it emerged naturally like other previous outbreaks.

The FBI posted on Twitter an excerpt from Mr Wray’s interview with Fox News on Tuesday night. His remarks follow reports that a classified assessment by the US Department of Energy determined that the virus was the result of a laboratory leak, although that conclusion was given a “low confidence” rating.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Mr Wray said. The Chinese government “has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing”, he added. 

Attorney-General Merrick Garland, who will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, will most likely be asked about Mr Wray’s comments.

Asked about the Energy Department’s report at a regular media briefing on Monday, Ms Mao Ning, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said a joint World Health Organisation-China mission had already found the lab leak theory “extremely unlikely”.

“Origins tracing of Covid-19 is a science matter and shouldn’t be politicised. China has supported and participates actively in international origins tracing,” she said, adding that “certain parties should stop rehashing the ‘lab leak’ narrative, stop smearing China and stop politicising origins tracing”.

Regardless of the different conclusions, the lack of rapid access to the lab and Wuhan at the start of the pandemic by independent monitors will continue to fuel doubts about the virus’ origins.

Mr Wray’s assertion comes at a crucial time in Sino-US relations. The two countries have been sparring over issues from Taiwan to technology and surveillance, and China’s potential support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. BLOOMBERG

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