A new report prepared by intelligence agencies of Western governments has found evidence that China intentionally withheld evidence of the coronavirus outbreak from the rest of the world in what is called an "assault on international transparency."
On Saturday, Australia's Daily Telegraph reported on the 15-page research document that reportedly came from "Five Eyes" -- intelligence agencies from the English-speaking countries of the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the U.K. The report claimed that the Chinese government suppressed or destroyed evidence and "disappeared" doctors who spoke out to raise alarm about the initial outbreak in an attempt to keep it under wraps.
China has faced growing international pressure amid reports that its government wasted precious time at the onset of the outbreak by concealing evidence from the rest of the world, with American President Donald Trump saying the country should face retribution if the reports are true.
The intelligence report noted that China destroyed other evidence of the virus from genomic studies laboratories and bleached stalls at wildlife markets where the outbreak was believed to have started. China also refused to provide live samples of the virus to international scientists who were working on a vaccine, the Daily Telegraph claimed.
As the virus began to spread more rapidly in December, the Chinese government began to censor internet search results related to the virus, the report claimed. China's claim that there was no human-to-human transmission of the virus was also picked up by the World Health Organization, even as China's neighboring countries were growing concerned, it added.
The Daily Telegraph report added that intelligence agencies were looking into allegations that the coronavirus could have originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, noting that the Australian government believes that it likely originated in an exotic meat market in Wuhan, but there is a remote possibility -- pegged at roughly 5 percent -- that it leaked from the lab.
But there is disagreement among members of the Five Eyes about the origin, the report added.
"The US's position, according to reports this week, is that it is more likely the virus leaked from a laboratory but it could also have come from a wet market that trades and slaughters wild animals, where other diseases including the H5N1 avian flu and SARS originated," the Daily Telegraph's report claimed.Trump said this week that he had seen evidence that the coronavirus originated from a lab in China, which the BBC reported appeared to be out of step with a statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all spy agencies. The statement, released on Thursday, said that the office believes the "wide scientific consensus" about the natural origins of the virus.