A new global pandemic could emerge after COVID, according to U.S. Intelligence agencies.
“Countries globally remain vulnerable to the emergence of a novel pathogen that could cause a devastating new pandemic,” writes the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in its Annual Threat Assessment report. “Drivers for disease emergence persist and are on the rise, including deforestation and other human encroachment into unsettled land, wildlife harvesting and trade, livestock production, and climate changes.”
The agency notes that several factors could facilitate the “global spread” of this new hypothetical pathogen, including “inadequate global disease surveillance,” “distrust of public health authorities” and “health system strain brought on by the [current] COVID-19 pandemic.”
“COVID-19 is likely to continue to strain health systems and create conditions that could facilitate the spread of other infectious diseases globally, including to the U.S. homeland,” writes the DNI. “Influenza and other seasonal respiratory diseases could surge to abnormally high levels in 2022 with the reduction of COVID-19 mitigation measures, which have dampened circulation of these diseases since early 2020, and in return reduced the level of population immunity to these infections.”
“Ecological degradation and a changing climate will continue to fuel disease outbreaks, threaten food and water security, and exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises,” continues the report.
The DNI notes that one U.S. intelligence community body assessed with “moderate confidence” that the first human encounter with the coronavirus pathogen occurred as a “laboratory-associated incident” in Wuhan. By contrast, three other intel elements assessed with “low confidence” that the encounter occurred as natural exposure to an animal infected with the virus.
“Beijing continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries, including the United States,” says the DNI.