A file photo taken on May 27, 2020 shows the P4 laboratory (centre, left) on the campus of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. (AFP)
‘US report concluded Covid-19 lab leak theory plausible’
A May 2020 study by a US government laboratory had concluded that the theory that the Covid-19 pandemic might have been caused by the coronavirus leaking from a virology lab in China’s Wuhan is plausible and needs further investigation, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The US state department had drawn from this study in its own investigation into the origin of Covid-19 in the final days of the Trump administration.
The lab leak theory has received renewed interest in the US with President Joe Biden ordering a comprehensive investigation by the intelligence community into the origin of the pandemic that has killed more than 3.5 million people worldwide. He has asked for a report in 90 days.
The US has said it is determined to “get to the bottom” of the pandemic and, along with several other countries, has urged the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a comprehensive probe, going beyond its earlier report, which had found the lab leak theory “extremely unlikely”.
The May 2020 study was conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s intelligence wing ,“Z Division”, the WSJ reported, citing people familiar with the study, and it was based on a genetic analysis of the virus that causes Covid-19.
The report, dated May 27, 2020, was sent to the state department in October and it sought more information.
A factsheet released by the state department in January 2021 listed out several reasons why the pandemic might have been caused by an accidental leak from the Wuhan lab. It said, “The US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019.”
The WSJ has reported based on US intelligence assessment that three researchers from the Wuhan virology lab were taken to hospital, and it was in November 2019, well before the first case was reported by China in December 2019.