The Independent

World news in brief


China lab leak ‘most likely’ led to pandemic, says FBI

FBI director Christophe­r Wray has said a laboratory leak in Wuhan, China, was “most likely” behind the Covid pandemic. This is the first time Mr Wray has publicly discussed the agency’s classified assessment of the pandemic’s origins. There has been much speculatio­n about the origins of the coronaviru­s ever since it was first detected in 2019. The most prominent theories have been that the virus had either jumped to humans

from animals or had spread as the result of an unintended lab leak.

China has denied the lab leak and blamed the US for politicisi­ng the issue, and has been met with accusation­s of not being transparen­t with internatio­nal agencies seeking to investigat­e the origins of the virus. “The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Mr Wray said in comments to Fox News. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab,” he said. “I will just make the observatio­n that the Chinese government, it seems to me, has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here,” he said.

Mr Wray said he couldn’t share details of the agency’s assessment because they were classified. His comments followed a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that said the FBI had concluded in 2021 with “moderate confidence” that the pandemic was likely the result of an unintended lab leak and still holds this view. The US Energy Department also had a “low confidence” assessment that the pandemic occurred after an accidental lab leak in China, the report said.

Meanwhile, four other agencies, along with a national intelligen­ce panel, still judge that the pandemic was likely the result of a natural transmissi­on, while two are undecided, the report added. The four agencies were not identified by officials.

Daylight saving time used by Egypt to save energy

Egypt will again use daylight saving time this summer after a seven-year gap, the cabinet said yesterday, the latest in a series of government efforts to save energy. Last year the Egyptian government announced a raft of rules to reduce government and commercial energy use so that the country could export more natural gas, a key foreign currency earner.

Changing the clocks “comes in light of global circumstan­ces and economic shifts, as the government strives to rationalis­e energy

usage”, the cabinet said. The practice, which has been introduced and abolished at varying points in Egypt’s history, was last used in 2014 and is seen by some as a relic of the country’s previous regimes.

Clocks will be brought forward one hour beginning on the last Friday of April, with the change ending on the last Thursday in October every year, according to the cabinet. Egypt is experienci­ng an economic crisis after the fallout from the Ukraine conflict aggravated a foreign currency shortage. Reuters

Putin bans officials from using foreign words

Government officials in Russia will be banned from using most foreign words while carrying out their duties under plans drawn up by Vladimir Putin, who has railed against the corrupting influence of the “degenerate” West. The president has amended a 2005 law designed to protect and support the status of the Russian language, preventing public workers from using words and expression­s “that do not correspond­ent to norms of modern Russia”.

There will exceptions for foreign words that “do not have widely-used correspond­ing equivalent­s in Russian”, according to the announceme­nt on the government’s website. The amendment is “aimed at protecting the Russian language from the excessive use of foreign words”, it says. Since invading Ukraine a year ago, Mr Putin has said he wants to protect Russia from what he calls a “degenerate” West that he alleges is trying to destroy his country.

In a state of the nation address last week, he blamed the West for starting the war and claimed that Russia responded with force “in order to stop it”. Mr Putin claimed Ukraine “has become hostage of the Kyiv regime and its Western masters, which have effectivel­y occupied the country”.

India braces for heatwave as wheat exports could be affected

Another heatwave is expected this year in India after recordbrea­king temperatur­es in 2022, raising concerns not just about the country’s preparedne­ss to tackle extreme weather but also the global implicatio­ns for wheat crops and energy supplies. India’s weather office raised an alert on Tuesday warning that the country would likely experience heatwaves between March and May this year after recording its hottest February since records began in 1901.

A similar alert was sounded in 2022 sounded for a heatwave that struck with unpreceden­ted temperatur­es in March, but this year the alarm has been raised considerab­ly earlier. The alert comes after a new study warned that there is a higher possibilit­y of an El Nino phenomenon taking place this year, which could increase global temperatur­es even beyond what was witnessed in the last few years.

While India reeled from the cascading impact of last year’s record temperatur­es that affected its crops and energy production, a heatwave for the second straight year could further dent the production of wheat and several key crops, complicati­ng the government’s efforts to bring down food inflation. Experts say warmer temperatur­es during the crucial month of March for winter-sown crops could lead to a yield loss. India only grows one wheat crop a year, with planting in October and November and harvesting from March.

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 ?? (Getty) ?? Security personnel check citizens in Wuhan, China, at the start of the outbreak in January 2020
(Getty) Security personnel check citizens in Wuhan, China, at the start of the outbreak in January 2020
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