FBI Director Christopher Wray has claimed that the bureau estimates Covid-19 "most likely" originated in a "China government-controlled facility".
"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident," he told journalists from the American news channel Fox News.
It's the first public confirmation of the FBI's top-secret assessment of how the pandemic virus spread. China has denied the existence of a lab leak in Wuhan, calling the claim slanderous.
Mr Wray's remarks came a day after the US ambassador to China urged the nation to "be more honest" about the origins of COVID. He stated in his interview on Tuesday that China " has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate" efforts to pinpoint the origins of the worldwide epidemic. "And that's unfortunate for everybody," he added.
According to some investigations, the virus spread from animals to humans in Wuhan, China, probably through the city's seafood and wildlife market. The market is a 40-minute drive from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a world-class viral laboratory that conducts coronavirus research.
Credit: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Several US government agencies have reached conclusions that differ from the FBI's, with varied degrees of certainty in their findings.
On Sunday, US media claimed that the US Energy Department had "poor confidence" that COVID had spilt from a lab. The government previously stated that it was unsure how the infection originated.
According to White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, US President Joe Biden supports "a whole-of-government effort" to figure out how COVID got started. Yet, he said that the US still lacks a clear consensus on what occurred. "We're just not there yet," he stated. "If we have something that is ready to be briefed to the American people and the Congress, we will do that."
According to an unclassified assessment provided by the US top spy officer in October 2021, four US intelligence agencies determined with "low confidence" that it had originated from an infected animal or a similar virus.
During the peak of the epidemic, the lab leak scenario was largely rejected as a fringe conspiracy theory for months. Senior health experts openly dismissed the possibility that the coronavirus was generated in a lab before escaping.
A World Health Organization (WHO) investigation declared the lab leak idea "very implausible," but after harsh criticism, the agency's director-general called for a fresh probe, adding, "All hypotheses remain open and require further study."
Covid-19 first appeared in late 2019 and has already killed almost seven million people.