New Delhi: U.S. intelligence agencies said on Friday they may never be able to identify the origins of COVID-19, as they released a new, more detailed version of their review of whether the coronavirus came from animal-to-human transmission or leaked from a lab.
In an updated assessment of where the virus began, the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said an animal-to-human transmission and a lab leak were both plausible hypotheses for how it spread, the report said.
But it said analysts disagree on which is more likely or whether any definitive assessment can be made at all.
China, where the pandemic originated in late 2019, has criticised the report.
The findings were published in a declassified report which is an update of a 90-day review that President Joe Biden's administration released in August, the report added.
It said the intelligence community remains divided on the most likely origin of the virus. Four agencies assessed with "low confidence" it had originated with an infected animal or a related virus.
But one agency said it had "moderate confidence" that the first human infection most likely was the result of a laboratory accident, probably involving experimentation or animal handling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the report said.
The report also said Chinese officials were unaware of the existence of the virus before the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan, in late 2019.
But it said China was continuing to hinder the global investigation and to resist sharing information.
Chinese authorities linked early Covid-19 cases to a seafood market in Wuhan, leading scientists to theorise that the virus first passed to humans from animals, the BBC reported.
But earlier this year, US media reports suggested growing evidence the virus could instead have emerged from the Wuhan laboratory, perhaps through an accidental leak.