US officials overseeing an intelligence review into the origins of COVID-19 consider the theory of virus accidentally escaping from a lab in Wuhan as equally plausible as the possibility that it emerged naturally in the wild. This is a dramatic shift from a year ago when Democrats publicly ridiculed the so-call lab leak theory.
In recent months, the lab-leak theory has gained great traction pushing US President Joe Biden to give the American intelligence team a 90-day deadline to find answers into the virus origin. According to CNN, the US intelligence community remains firmly divided over whether the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab or jumped naturally from animals to humans in the wild.
Little new evidence has emerged to move the needle in one direction or another, CNN reported citing sources. But the fact that the lab leak theory is being seriously considered by top Biden officials is noteworthy and comes amid a growing openness to the idea even though most scientists who study coronaviruses and who have investigated the origins of the pandemic say the evidence strongly supports a natural origin.
Current intelligence reinforces the belief that the virus most likely originated naturally -- from animal-human contact and was not deliberately engineered, the sources said.
But that does not preclude the possibility that the virus was the result of an accidental leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where coronavirus research was being conducted on bats -- although many scientists familiar with the research say such a leak is unlikely.
On Thursday, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it had been "premature" to dismiss the possibility that a lab leak had spawned the pandemic and urged China to provide "direct information on what the situation of these labs was before and at the start of the pandemic."
The so-called "lab leak" theory has become the subject of renewed public debate after several prominent scientists called for a full investigation into the origins of the virus.
A WHO-led team of scientists that travelled to China in early 2021 to investigate the origins of the virus struggled to get a clear picture of what research China was conducting beforehand, faced constraints during its visit and had little power to conduct thorough, impartial research.
Beijing has hit back at the Wuhan lab leak allegations, dismissing them as a conspiracy theory.
Also on Thursday, China's foreign ministry spokesperson released a statement saying that "since the beginning of the epidemic, China has taken a scientific, professional, serious and responsible attitude in tracing the origins of the virus."
(With ANI Inputs)