FBI director says China laboratory leak was likely COVID source

FBI Director Christopher Wray accuses China of thwarting efforts to identify the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak.

FBI Director Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Fox News that a laboratory leak in China was the likely source of the COVID-19 pandemic [File: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]

FBI Director Christopher Wray says his agency has assessed that a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the likely cause of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wray’s comments follow a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that the US Energy Department had assessed with low confidence the pandemic resulted from an unintended lab leak in China.

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

Four other US agencies, along with a national intelligence panel, believe that the pandemic was likely the result of natural transmission, and two are undecided, the Journal reported.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby also said on Monday that the US government had not reached a definitive conclusion and consensus on the pandemic’s origins.

Wray also told Fox News that China had thwarted efforts to identify the origin of the virus. But investigations were still ongoing, he said, adding that he was currently unable to share “a whole lot of details that are classified”.

“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government … has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we’re doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing,” he said.

The FBI later tweeted the director’s comments.

China’s foreign ministry, asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, referred to a joint report by the World Health Organization and China that pointed towards a natural origin for the pandemic rather than a lab leak.

“On the origins-tracing of SARS-CoV-2, China has been open and transparent, and shared information and data on COVID-19 with the international community in a timely manner,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Tuesday.

“China is the only country that has invited more than once WHO expert groups to come into the country to conduct joint origins study. China has shared more data and research findings on SARS-CoV-2 origins study than any other country,” she said.

Mao also said the US should look at its own biological laboratories scattered across the world.

“It is the US who should respond to the world’s questions and concerns over Fort Detrick and its military and biological labs across the world,” she said.

“By politicising the issue, the US will not succeed in discrediting China. Instead, it will only hurt the US’s own credibility.”

The WHO’s global COVID-19 trackers reported that, as of February 21, there had been more than 757 million virus infections and 6.85 million related deaths.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies