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New coronavirus not man-made or genetically modified: US intelligence

Washington, United States | AFP | The US intelligence community said Thursday it had concluded that the novel coronavirus that has swept the globe originated in China but was not man-made or engineered.

“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement.

“The intelligence community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

The statement came after US President Donald Trump suggested on Monday that he might seek damages from China over the outbreak.

News reports say Trump has tasked US spies to find out more about the origins of the virus, at first blamed on a Wuhan, China wet market selling exotic animals like bats, but now thought possibly to be from a virus research laboratory nearby.

Suggesting that Beijing has not been forthcoming about the disease, which has infected about 3.2 million people and killed over 227,000, Trump said Monday that there were many options to “hold them accountable.”

“We are not happy with China,” he said.

“We are not happy with that whole situation because we believe it could have been stopped at the source.”

The US intelligence directorate said it always boosts resources for study and analysis during national security crises.

The intelligence community “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,” it said.

The idea that the virus was man-made has circulated since the epidemic erupted in China in December and January.

In a survey released April 8, the Pew Research Center said 29 percent of Americans believed the virus was created in a laboratory, either purposely (23 percent) or by accident (six percent).

No evidence has been offered to support the theory, and scientists say there is no indication in the virus’s genetic makeup that it was manipulated in a laboratory.

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