(NewsNation) — The 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.
If accurate, the report is a major update. Up to this point, no government agency with the weight of the Department of Energy has come to this conclusion aside from the FBI.
But unlike the FBI, the Department of Energy staffs whole teams of scientific and medical experts and oversees national labs with the skills to make this call.
And while logically it might make sense COVID-19 leaked from the lab in Wuhan where research on coronaviruses was being done, the evidence to confirm it just wasn’t there.
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.
Health officials like former White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci have been repeatedly pressed on this question. Fauci always maintained we cannot rule out the lab leak theory, but adding the evidence available wasn’t enough for him to support it.
“No one knows, not even I, 100% at this point, which is the reason why we are in favor of further investigation,” Fauci said.
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.
Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, says if it’s proven that COVID-19 spread because of a lab accident in Wuhan, China needs to be held accountable.
“I think we need to have public hearings on this and really dig in,” Sullivan said. “A lot of evidence that it’s come from the Chinese and when other countries raise it, like Australia, the Chinese use their coercive economic activities to shut people up.”
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.
On Sunday, Sullivan cautioned the public this isnt a smoking gun.