Chinese officials reel at the very thought, but the rumour just won’t go away.
Now, adding weight to the theory, a former head of the UK’s much vaunted MI6 intelligence service says he believes the coronavirus pandemic may have “started as an accident,” with the virus escaping from a Wuhan laboratory, The Independent reported.
Sir Richard Dearlove cited an “important” new study by British and Norwegian researchers which he thinks could “shift the debate.”
The researchers claim to have discovered clues suggesting key elements were “inserted” into the virus’s genetic sequence and may not have evolved naturally — a prospect contested by almost every other scientist studying the virus’s makeup, The Independent reported.
The study had been rejected by various journals and rewritten several times to remove accusatory claims about China before it was published in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, according to The Telegraph.
Initial co-author John Fredrik Moxnes, a chief scientific adviser to the Norwegian military, reportedly asked for his name to be removed.
The researchers are still seeking a publisher for a new paper, which says Covid-19 is a “remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence,” and claims it is likely to be the result of a laboratory experiment to produce “chimeric viruses of high potency,” The Telegraph reported.
Amid attempts by President Trump to pile blame on China, repeatedly labelling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus,” US secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed there was “enormous evidence” that the virus was man-made, The independent reported.
Since then he has not produced a shred of evidence.
In fact, the US National Intelligence Director’s office said it “concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” adding the intelligence community (Five Eyes Group) would continue to “rigorously examine” the possibility it had escaped from a laboratory.
In the UK, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government has seen “no evidence” to suggest the virus originated in a laboratory, The Independent reported.
The scientific consensus has been that the virus originated in bats, with the genetic makeup of the virus indicating it most likely jumped naturally to an intermediate animal before making the leap to humans.
The established theory is that the virus originated in a Wuhan wet market, The Independent reported.
While recent analysis of the first 41 known coronavirus patients by The Lancet found 27 of them had a connection to the market but the first patient did not, many scientists still maintain the market is by far the most likely source.
The presence of two laboratories — the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and Wuhan Institute of Virology — both of which had looked at viruses in bats, have fuelled speculation that the virus may have originated there.
However, Sir Richard, who was head of MI6 until 2004, suggested that scientists may have been carrying out gene-splicing experiments — although “absolutely” rejected conspiracy theories that this may have been for malevolent purposes, The Independent reported.
“It’s a risky business if you make a mistake,” Sir Richard told The Telegraph. “Look at the stories … of the attempts by the leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced.”
He added: “It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”
It should be noted, no scientists studying Covid-19’s genetic makeup have reported signs it was manipulated, except for those in the study he cites, co-authored by Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George’s at the University of London, The Independent reported.
Dearlove is former Chief of MI6 and Master of Pembroke College Cambridge and is now an in demand guest speaker. He was Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004 after thirty years in the British Intelligence service.
He served as a frontline officer in places like Paris, Geneva and behind the Iron Curtain and was a station head in Washington DC as well as overseeing the completion of the HQ building on the River Thames in London.