The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday (local time) confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a lab incident in Wuhan, China.
'FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed that the Bureau has assessed that the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic likely originated from a lab incident in Wuhan, China,' tweeted the FBI.
This development comes after new intelligence had prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the novel coronavirus pandemic, reported The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
"The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan... I will just make the observation that the Chinese government... has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here, the work that we're doing, the work that our US government and close foreign partners are doing," said FBI chief.
The update, which is less than five pages, wasn't requested by the Congress.
But lawmakers, particularly House and Senate Republicans, have been pursuing their own investigations into the origins of the pandemic and are pressing the Biden administration and the intelligence community for more information.
The Energy Department now joins the FBI in saying the virus likely spread via a mishap at a Chinese laboratory, reported WSJ.
The Energy Department's conclusion is the result of new intelligence and is significant because the agency has considerable scientific expertise and oversees a network of US national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research.
The Energy Department's insights come from its network of national laboratories, some of which conduct biological research, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.
The novel coronavirus first circulated in Wuhan, China, no later than November 2019, according to the US 2021 intelligence report.
The pandemic's origin has been the subject of vigorous debate among academics, intelligence experts and lawmakers.
The emergence of the pandemic heightened tensions between the US and China, which US officials alleged was withholding information about the outbreak.
It also led to a spirited and at times partisan debate in the US about its origin.
China, which has placed limits on investigations by the World Health Organisation (WHO), has disputed that the virus could have leaked from one of its labs and has suggested it emerged outside China.
The Chinese government didn't respond to requests for comment about whether there has been any change in its views on the origins of COVID-19.
However, the fact that Wuhan is the center of China's extensive coronavirus research, has led some scientists and US officials to argue that a lab leak is the best explanation for the pandemic's origin.
Wuhan is home to an array of laboratories, many of which were built or expanded as a result of China's traumatic experience with the initial severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic beginning in 2002.
They include campuses of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, which produces vaccines.