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US Intelligence Chief: Spy Agencies Do Not Know Exactly When COVID-19 First Transmitted

US Intelligence Chief: Spy Agencies Do Not Know Exactly When COVID-19 First Transmitted

Wednesday, 14 April, 2021 - 17:15
Director Avril Haines of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) testifies during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, April 14, 2021. (Reuters)

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies do not know exactly when or how COVID-19 was initially transmitted.


“The intelligence community does not know exactly where, when or how the COVID-19 virus was transmitted initially,” Haines told a Senate hearing. She noted two theories, that it emerged from human contact with infected animals or the result of a laboratory accident.


“We’re continuing to work on this issue and collect information,” Haines said in response to questioning by Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate intelligence panel, about the virus’s early spread in China.


Many US lawmakers have denounced China for failing to be more transparent about the early threat from the coronavirus. Former Republican President Donald Trump was criticized for calling it the “China virus,” amid a rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States.


World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in March that data was withheld from WHO investigators who travelled to China to research the origins of the coronavirus.


US intelligence agency directors at the hearing were asked how much of their workforces had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said 80 percent of his agency had received at least one vaccine, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lieutenant General Scott Berrier said 40-50 percent, but that was expanding quickly.


Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray said he could not provide the committee with an approximate percentage because its workforce is spread across so many US states.


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