The U.S. intelligence community on Thursday said it has concluded that the novel coronavirus “was not manmade or genetically modified,” but is still examining whether the outbreak could have originated in a Chinese laboratory.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the U.S.’ 17 intelligence bodies, said in a press release that intelligence community “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
The statement added that the agencies will “continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.
The statement comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies have suggested that the virus could have originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese city where the outbreak began in late 2019.
The head of the institute has rejected the allegations and scientists have expressed doubts that the new coronavirus could have come from a lab.
The first infections were linked with an animal market in Wuhan.
Experts believe the virus comes from bats and might also have been spread via another host animal.
Speaking with reporters from the White House on Thursday, Trump was asked if he has seen any information that gives him a “high degree of confidence” the virus originated in the Wuhan lab.
“Yes I have,” Trump responded, adding that the “World Health Organisation should be ashamed of themselves.”
When asked to provide details on the information Trump said: “I am not allowed to tell you.”
Trump has also accused Beijing of covering up information on the virus and failing to act quickly enough to slow its spread. (dpa/NAN)