The report of a study of the origins of Covid-19 by a US government national laboratory has concluded that the suspicion that coronavirus leaked from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, The Wall Street Journal reported the development on Monday, citing statements by people privy to the classified document.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California prepared the study in May 2020. The State Department drew on the study when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins during the final months of the Trump administration.
Lawrence Livermore’s assessment drew on genomic analysis of the coronavirus, the Journal said.
Lawrence Livermore declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report.
People familiar with the study said that it was prepared by Lawrence Livermore’s “Z Division,” which is its intelligence arm. Lawrence Livermore has considerable expertise on biological issues. Its assessment drew on genomic analysis of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, they said.
Scientists analyse the genetic makeup of viruses to try to determine how they evolved and spread in the population. Proponents on both sides of the debate over the origins of Covid-19 have cited such analysis to try to make their case.
US President Joe Biden said last month he had ordered aides to find answers to the origin of coronavirus.
The finding is attracting fresh interest in Congress now that President Biden has ordered that US intelligence agencies report to him within weeks on how the virus emerged. Biden said that US intelligence has focused on two scenarios — whether the coronavirus came from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.
US intelligence agencies are considering two likely scenarios — that coronavirus came out as a result of a laboratory accident or that it emerged from human contact with an infected animal — but they have not come to a conclusion, he said.
A still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former President Trump’s administration had alleged that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, US government sources said.
Report on the study
The rest of the news report on the study in The Wall Street Journal follows. “A spokeswoman for Lawrence Livermore declined to comment on the report, which remains secret.
“The assessment is said to have been among the first US government efforts to seriously explore the hypothesis that the coronavirus leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology along with the dominant hypothesis that the virus spread naturally from animals to humans. Although some prominent scientists have called for a fuller probe of the lab hypothesis in recent months, many scientists still insist a natural spillover remains the most likely explanation.
“China’s government has repeatedly denied that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory and said it is cooperating fully with international efforts to find the pandemic’s origins. Many scientists and officials from other countries dispute that Beijing has provided sufficient access and transparency in the investigation. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has also denied that the virus leaked from its facilities and said that none of its staff has tested positive for Covid-19.
“One person who read the document, which is dated 27 May 2020, said it made a strong case for further inquiry into the possibility the virus seeped out of the lab.
“The study also had a major influence on the State Department’s probe into Covid-19’s origins. State Department officials received the study in late October 2020 and asked for more information, according to a timeline by the agency’s arms control and verification bureau, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
“The study was important because it came from a respected national laboratory and differed from the dominant view in spring 2020 that the virus almost certainly was first transmitted to humans via an infected animal, a former official involved in the State Department inquiry said.
“The State Department’s findings, which were vetted by US intelligence agencies, were made public in a 15 January fact sheet that listed a series of circumstantial reasons why the Covid-19 outbreak might have originated as a result of a lab accident. They include the assertion that “the US government has reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019” with symptoms that were consistent with Covid-19 or seasonal flu,” concludes the news report.