Coronavirus origins report: Key takeaways and the way forward
Mustafa Hyder Sayed


Editor's note: Mustafa Hyder Sayed is the executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The coronavirus origins report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last week should put to rest the U.S. government and media campaign that accused China and its government of being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The report reaffirms the conclusions of the WHO's first investigation carried out in March this year, which found that the most plausible scenario was that the coronavirus first started in an animal. The report also reaffirms the stance of the Chinese government that the COVID-19 pandemic was not caused by a lab leak.

These are the key takeaways from this report:

1) The coronavirus was not developed as a biological weapon: The U.S. and Western media, in addition to the U.S. government, had implied on multiple occasions that China was prospectively indulging in a new and dangerous form of warfare, and was willing to put the world's public health at risk to advance its own interest. The West was going down a slippery slope as this accusation was loaded with a lot of legal and diplomatic consequences. The ODNI report categorically rejects this hypothesis and renders it void.

2) The coronavirus is not genetically engineered: The assumption that the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have been experimenting with the coronavirus and that it may have mistakenly leaked due to poor enforcement of standard operating procedures is also denied by the ODNI report. According to the report, one "intelligence community element" had "moderate confidence" that it could be a lab leak, making it equivalent to a minority view, as the other agencies of the intelligence community, it seems, did not share this view.

National flags are seen at the Tian'anmen Square and atop the Great Hall of the People, China. /Xinhua

National flags are seen at the Tian'anmen Square and atop the Great Hall of the People, China. /Xinhua

3) The Chinese government did not conceal any information: This is a crucial point, as it demonstrates that the campaign that began under the Trump administration and has been continued by the Biden administration, to somehow link the COVID-19 pandemic with the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government, had zero truth. The report states, "Chinese officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged." There was a narrative cultivated that the CPC and the Chinese government had withheld information deliberately that had caused the world not to be notified in time to preempt, prepare and deal with the consequences and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, ultimately calling for punitive action and punishment of the Chinese government. The ONDI unequivocally absolves the Chinese government of withholding information.

In June this year, Christopher Ford, who was a senior U.S. State Department official, published an article on the website, where he criticized his colleagues for jumping to conclusions on the origins of the coronavirus sans scientific, fact-based data.

Robert Garry, a noted virologist based in New Orleans, in an article published on called "U.S. COVID origins report: Researchers pleased with scientific approach," corroborated the knowledge and understanding of the intelligence officials who undertook this study, stating that "these folks were really knowledgeable, had PhDs in molecular biology, they had read all of the papers in detail." Garry went on to say that "it's huge to mainly rule out that this is a product of engineering."

Rather than continuing to press China to share more information, which Biden did as soon as he received this report, the U.S. should show grace by accepting that they were wrong in their policy of accusing China, as those accusations have been left as accusations and proven to be at worst, false, and at best, inconclusive and unsubstantiated. The irony is that the U.S. accusations have been rebutted and fact-checked by their own leading institution, the ONDI. It is time to rise above partisanship, to depoliticize the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus on saving lives and ensuring vaccine access to all human beings on earth.

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