A US intelligence report published by The Washington Post reveals that it has not been possible to reach conclusive results about the origin of the coronavirus and whether it was transmitted by an animal or whether it was the result of an escape from a laboratory in Wuhan.
The US media quoted officials as saying that US President Joe Biden received a classified report concluding that "the origins of the coronavirus have not been resolved".
This investigation has been 90 days in the making, beginning last May, when Biden commissioned a report that "could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion" about the origins of the virus. Despite analysing a variety of existing intelligence and looking for new evidence, the two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they "have not been able to reach a consensus on this".
Alongside this, several scientists familiar with the research have been sceptical about the US exploration, arguing that it could take years to reach a reliable conclusion. Another expert stressed that "you can only go as deep as the situation allows" and added that "unless China allows access to certain data sets, the truth will never be known".
Another official stressed that US intelligence "is not necessarily better equipped to solve this problem, which is primarily a scientific question".
In this vein, Biden has expressed the need to create a "stronger group to track the virus", stating that he will have to "increase the number of individuals with significant pathogen-related scientific capability".
"We shouldn't even think about turning the page or turning back, but we should redouble our efforts," David Rellman, a microbiologist at Stanford University who has pushed for a broad investigation of all hypotheses about the origin of the virus, told the media outlet.
The idea that the virus leaked from a laboratory received increased attention last spring, after 18 scientists wrote a letter to Science in May, saying that all possible origins of the virus should be investigated, including "laboratory accident".
However, several scientists have pointed out that the viruses have a long history of transmission from animals to humans and that there are "many plausible scenarios in which this circumstance may have occurred", including the possibility of the virus being transmitted from wild or domestic animals sold in markets where they are in poor condition
On the other hand, China has refused to carry out a second stage of the investigation, which the US has demanded on multiple occasions. However, the World Health Organisation has already succeeded in conducting a first investigation in the Chinese laboratory, concluding that leakage was "extremely unlikely".
It is estimated that around 4.1 million people have died worldwide as a result of COVID-19, a pandemic that has left economic and social consequences that will take years to recover from.