Senior Biden administration officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, now view the theory that the novel coronavirus leaked from a laboratory as equally plausible as a natural origin, CNN reported on Friday evening.
The report comes midway through a U.S. intelligence community review of the hypotheses for the origins of the pandemic, ordered by President Biden in May. While intelligence agencies are still divided as to whether the coronavirus first infected a human in nature or in a laboratory, the lab-leak theory has received renewed credibility in those agencies, one source familiar with the review told CNN.
“There has been a shift in their point of view,” the source said.
The shift coincides with a change in popular opinion among Americans as to the origins of the coronavirus. A bipartisan majority of Americans now believe the coronavirus leaked from a lab, including 59 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats, according to a Politico-Harvard University survey in late June.
At a press conference on Thursday, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “premature” to dismiss the lab-leak hypothesis.
“I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen,” Tedros told reporters.
The city of Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began, is home to three laboratories that study coronaviruses, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology. China has refused to allow independent investigators access to data from the institute from the early days of the pandemic.