Report: COVID Likely Emerged From Lab Leak, Energy Dept Says

The Wuhan Institute / Getty Images
February 26, 2023

The Department of Energy has determined that COVID-19 likely emerged from a laboratory leak in China, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

The department based its conclusion on "new intelligence," according to the Journal, and joins the FBI as the only two federal agencies to publicly support the so-called lab leak theory.

The FBI in 2021 concluded with "moderate confidence" that the pandemic started with a "laboratory accident," according to a declassified intelligence report.

The finding comes as House Republicans this month launched a probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic. The House Oversight Committee requested information from the Biden administration on the lab leak theory, as well as testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, who as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases dismissed speculation that COVID leaked from a lab.

Republicans have long raised the prospect that coronavirus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an idea dismissed as a conspiracy theory by Democrats and members of the media for much of the pandemic. President Joe Biden became open to the theory after Donald Trump left office because the former president "was viewed as wanting to vilify China to deflect blame for his handling of the pandemic," current and former officials told the Financial Times.

State Department officials warned about safety measures at Chinese labs studying coronaviruses as far back as 2018, the Journal reported:

U.S. State Department cables written in 2018 and internal Chinese documents show that there were persistent concerns about China’s biosafety procedures, which have been cited by proponents of the lab-leak hypothesis.

Wuhan is home to an array of laboratories, many of which were built or expanded as a result of China’s traumatic experience with the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic beginning in 2002. They include campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, which produces vaccines.

An outbreak at a seafood market in Wuhan had initially been thought to be the source of the virus, but some scientists and Chinese public-health officials now see it as an example of community spread rather than the place where the first human infection occurred, the 2021 intelligence community report said.