Energy Department officials on Sunday announced that the agency concluded that COVID-19 likely originated from an accidental lab leak from Wuhan, China.

The conclusion, made with “low confidence,” stems primarily from the Energy Department’s national laboratories which conduct biological research.

Intelligence agencies, which utilize more traditional forms of information gathering, such as communication interceptions, remain divided over the pandemic’s origins.

Most officials agree that learning where COVID-19 came from is vital to preventing future pandemics of this sort. COVID-19 has killed around seven million people worldwide. Its undeniably massive global long-term economic and health consequences are impossible to calculate at this time.

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China’s opposition to research around the topic has been a large obstacle to studying the pandemic in general, and especially its origin.

The existence of a virology lab in Wuhan, China where coronaviruses were studied has raised questions for several years now.

The “lab leak” theory of COVID-19 has been politically contentious since former President Donald Trump promoted it early on in the pandemic. The Trump administration mostly advanced the theory, which at the time had little evidence, to divert blame for its COVID-19 response and blame China.

Since then, however, more evidence has come out to support the former president’s theory, and the political right has heavily latched onto “lab leak” as a leading theory.

Democrats have mostly been unwilling up until recently to consider “lab leak” and have primarily stuck with the official explanation of “natural transmission.”

After taking control of the House of Representatives in January, Republicans created a committee to study China and its relationship with the United States.

The house committee, led by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), plans to make studying the “lab leak” theory a priority, according to Gallagher. After planning to hold its first committee hearing on the ‘threat” that the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States on Tuesday, future hearings will focus on biosecurity and China’s influence on organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Evidence has been piling up for over a year in favor of the lab leak hypothesis… I am glad some of our agencies are starting to listen to common sense and change their assessment,” said Gallagher.

In April 2021, former CDC director Robert Redfield said that the lab leak theory did have merit, and was the cause of the pandemic in his “opinion.”

Redfield responded at the time to criticism at the time: “Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out. It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker. That’s my own view. It’s only an opinion. I’m allowed to have opinions now.”

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