Biden will release Covid-19 origin intelligence

Why it matters: Biden’s signature is a step further in providing transparency about what the U.S. knows about how the pandemic started.

Some scientists and government agencies have theorized that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology inadvertently spread Covid-19 to people in the city where the virus first emerged, while others have insisted that an animal more likely transmitted it to people.

The U.S. intelligence community is split about the origin of the pandemic.

The Department of Energy and the FBI have recently said they lean toward the lab leak hypothesis. DOE said it had low confidence in its assessment, while the FBI said its confidence level was moderate. Other agencies support the natural origin theory.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that U.S. intelligence agencies believe three workers at the Wuhan lab were hospitalized in the month before the virus emerged.

A determination that the virus leaked from the Chinese lab would further strain the U.S.-China relationship, and also erode trust in leading scientists who argued for the natural origin hypothesis.

The World Health Organization has said both possibilities remain on the table.

New Chinese data on genetic samples taken in a Wuhan food market in January 2020, which China health authorities briefly made available online in mid-March, don’t provide a definitive answer as to how the Covid-19 pandemic began, the WHO said on Friday in response to media reports that said the data buttressed the natural origin hypothesis by linking the virus to racoon dogs sold at the market.

What’s next: U.S. intelligence agencies will redact their data to protect sources and methods before sharing it with Congress.