No, the US government has not proven the lab leak hypothesis for COVID-19 origins

By: Matthew Ross
April 25 2023

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No, the US government has not proven the lab leak hypothesis for COVID-19 origins


The Verdict False

There is no consensus on COVID-19 origins among US intelligence services. A majority of them support a zoonotic origin, albeit with low confidence.

Claim ID c2777e46


Even as the debate on the origins of COVID-19 rages on, a Facebook video claims that the U.S. government has proven that the coronavirus pandemic was the result of a leak from a lab in China. The video makes several other false or disputable claims about the U.S. government's role in using the pandemic to gain control over the population and steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump, all framed as facts. A post sharing the video has garnered more than 14,000 likes on Facebook so far.

In Fact

How the COVID-19 pandemic began has been a contentious debate, with experts of varying credentials, positions, and organizations disagreeing on the likely origin. The two main hypotheses have been that COVID-19 either emerged from a wet market in Wuhan, China, due to zoonotic (animal to human) transmission or escaped from a research laboratory there. The issue is entangled with U.S. partisan politics, with former President Donald Trump promoting the lab leak hypothesis and blaming China for the pandemic, but non-partisan scientists and experts have also called for investigations into the theory. The video seemingly references a report from the Senate health committee, "Muddy Waters," which claims that the virus most likely emerged from a Wuhan laboratory. It also relies on the recent House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, which is holding hearings on COVID-19's origins.

While the video claims the U.S. government has proven COVID-19's origins in a lab, the White House has stated that there is no uniform agreement across the government, including U.S. intelligence services. Previously, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report claiming a lab leak was the likely cause, but the report made its case with "low confidence." Conversely, a 2021 review of numerous U.S. intelligence services showed disagreement. While five agencies, including the National Intelligence Council, have concluded, albeit with low confidence, that COVID-19 originated from natural transmission, two agencies, including the CIA, remain undecided and two agencies — DOE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) believe the pandemic to be a result of a lab leak. 

According to the "Muddy Waters" report, "failures of biosafety containment" were the likely cause of the incident. However, the evidence for the lab leak is "circumstantial," and it concedes that zoonotic transmission is also "plausible." The report also states that it is missing crucial supporting data for its conclusion that may never come to light. The existence of this report, the investigation behind it, and the opinions of its experts do not point to a decisive conclusion that a lab was the source of COVID-19. As ABC News points out, this report does not carry the weight of a peer-reviewed study. It does not include information from a forthcoming U.S. intelligence report or the cooperation of the Chinese government. Proponents of both narratives of COVID-19's origins point to the Chinese government's lack of cooperation as possible evidence to support their theories. The WHO has called on China and the scientific community to undertake studies into the origins of the pandemic. Meanwhile, The New York Times points out that Chinese censorship of information does not prove that China is actively hiding the origin of the pandemic. However, this lack of significant data makes it difficult to claim that the lab leak hypothesis has been conclusively proven. The report seemingly referenced in the video does not make the claim with total confidence. The WHO told Logically Facts that until more evidence is presented, all hypotheses on COVID-19 origins are on the table.

Logically Facts has fact-checked several of the other claims similar to those made in the video here, here, here, here, and here

The Verdict

It is not a fact that the U.S. government has proven the lab leak hypothesis. According to experts and scientists, without cooperation from China, the origin of COVID-19 will likely continue to be disputed and colored by competing theories, politics, and speculation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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