(NewsNation) — The United States Department of Energy has issued a report stating that COVID-19 is likely the result of a lab leak in China.
The Wall Street Journal reported on a classified intelligence document that was shared with White House officials and some members of Congress. Sources told the paper the findings were based on new intelligence.
However, the department reportedly said the findings were made with “low confidence.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been competing theories over the origins of the virus. China said the virus was the result of animal-human spillover, with this particular coronavirus jumping from bats to people. Supporters of the animal spillover theory cite a recent increase in disease outbreaks, attributed in part to increasing contact between people and wild animals as civilization encroaches on previously isolated habitats.
At the same time, politicians, including former President Donald Trump, theorized the virus was actually the result of a lab leak in Wuhan, China, where researchers were doing work with the coronavirus. Supporters of the lab leak theory have pointed to China’s reluctance to cooperate with investigations into the origin of the virus and a history of lax safety procedures at the facility.
Among scientists, the consensus has leaned toward supporting the theory that COVID-19 emerged naturally as a result of human-animal contact. The virus, experts said, moved from bats to other wildlife, then from that wildlife to people.
Scientists have implicated China’s “wet markets,” which sell produce, meat and sometimes live animals, in the spread. Wet markets have been linked to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses and viral outbreaks including avian flu.
A report from the World Health Organization, written by a panel of experts, came to the same conclusion and suggested it was extremely unlikely that COVID-19 was the result of a lab leak.
Support for the lab leak theory has mainly come from the intelligence community and policy-makers. The FBI also issued a report indicating COVID-19 was the result of a lab leak, with “moderate confidence” in the findings.
Jake Sullivan, a national security advisor to the White House, said there is still no definitive answer when it comes to the origin of COVID-19, but the Biden administration is working with intelligence agencies to continue investigating what might have caused the global pandemic.