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China Criticizes US Report on Origins of Coronavirus

Security personnel keep watch outside Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 3, 2021. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
China Criticizes US Report on Origins of Coronavirus
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China has criticized a formerly secret U.S. intelligence report that examines the possible origins of COVID-19.

The newly-declassified report was released Friday by the Director of National Intelligence. It was based on the findings of investigations carried out by several U.S. intelligence agencies.

The report leaves open the possibility that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may have escaped from a Chinese laboratory. It also states that the virus could have spread from an animal to a human.

The report notes that intelligence agencies will likely never know the exact origins of COVID-19 unless major new evidence is discovered.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, commented on the report Sunday. Wang called the report “political and false” and said it had “no scientific basis or credibility.”

He said the study of the origins of COVID-19 “is a serious and complex scientific issue.” Such an effort should only be carried out by a team of world scientists cooperating with one another, Wang added.

The earliest known cases of the new coronavirus were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019. China has repeatedly denied accusations that the new coronavirus may have escaped from a specialist laboratory in the city.

The new report expands on findings released in August of a 90-day review of the issue ordered by President Joe Biden. That review said U.S. intelligence agencies were divided on the origins of the virus.

The latest report said four U.S. intelligence agencies and a multi-agency body had “low confidence” that COVID-19 originated with an infected animal or related virus.

But one agency said it had “moderate confidence” that the first human infection likely resulted from a laboratory accident. The agency said such an accident probably happened during experiments with animals at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The report dismissed suggestions that the new coronavirus may have originated as a biological weapon.

The report said U.S. agencies and the world scientific community lacked "clinical samples or a complete understanding of epidemiological data from the earliest COVID-19 cases."

A joint study by China and the World Health Organization (WHO) published this year mostly ruled out the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a lab. It said the most likely theory was that the virus infected humans naturally, probably through the wildlife trade.

Critics said the study failed to investigate labs in Wuhan and did not examine enough data to understand the early transmission path of the virus.

Last month, the WHO asked China to supply original data to help any new investigation. China has declined, noting patient privacy rules.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

origins – n. the cause of something or where something begins or comes from

declassify – v. to say officially that political or military information is no longer secret

credibility – n. the fact that someone can be believed or trusted

review – n. the act of considering something again in order to make changes to it, give an opinion of it or study it

confidence – n. a feeling of being sure that something will happen or that something is true

clinical – adj. used to describe medical work or teaching that relates to the examination and treatment of sick people

epidemiological – adj. relating to epidemiology: the scientific study of diseases and how they are found, spread and controlled in groups of people

transmission – n. the process of passing something from one person or place to another