MP says there is a 'strong possibility' Covid escaped from Chinese lab

Top Tory China hawk MP Tom Tugendhat says there is a ‘strong possibility’ Covid escaped from a Chinese lab as he says a ‘culture of fear and silence’ around the origins of the pandemic

  • The theory has begun to gain traction recently after previously being discounted
  • Tugendhat said investigation was needed, attacking Chinese culture of silence
  • WHO envoy David Nabarro told Sky said no country is ‘let off the hook’ 

There is a ‘strong possibility’ Covid originated in a China lab and it needs a full investigation, a leading Tory MP said today.

China hawk Tom Tugendhat said claims that the pandemic originated in a leak from a medical facility ‘raise the possibility’ it did not start in a ‘wet market’ selling bushmeat as currently thought. 

The theory, denied by Beijing, has begun to gain traction in recent weeks after previously being discounted.

Last week British intelligence operatives revealed they now believe it is ‘feasible’ the coronavirus pandemic began with a leak from a research laboratory in Wuhan.

They are now investigating the possibility that a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese research facility, sparked the global crisis which has sparked more than 3.5 million deaths. 

Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who has been targeted by Chinese communist authorities over his criticism of the authoritarian regime, told Sky: ‘There are certainly strong suggestions of that and there is a strong possibility and it is at least an enquiry or route of enquiry that needs to be investigated. 

Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said reports of a leak from a research lab were a ‘route of enquiry that needs to be investigated’

Last week British intelligence operatives revealed they now believe it is ‘feasible’ the coronavirus pandemic began with a leak from a research laboratory in Wuhan

‘If you read the 2012 papers that list various forms of research that were being done in the Wuhan laboratory, then you can see certainly the gain of function areas that they were looking at raise the possibility that is something that may have happened. 

‘Now, I don’t know whether it leaked from the Wuhan laboratory and my guess is that the Chinese authorities don’t know if it leaked from the Wuhan laboratories because their culture of fear and silence is one that has left them blind, let alone us blind, to the causes.’

Asked whether the original source would ever be discovered Mr Tugendhat added: ‘Well, I hope they do and this is exactly what the World Health Organisation should be pushing for and looking at because it absolutely essential that we do find out the truth.

‘There are laboratories around the world that research different forms of viruses in order to find vaccines, in order to find cures and if there has been a leak, we need to know why that was. 

‘Is it something that could have happened anywhere, is it something specific to this laboratory? 

‘We don’t know but as I say, the real problem here is that the Chinese Communist Party has developed such a culture of fear amongst its own people that people are afraid of telling the truth and there is a very strong possibility that we don’t find out the truth because the Chinese government itself doesn’t know the truth and will never find it out because they have so terrified their own scientists and researchers that they won’t be able to tell them.’

It came as the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19 said no country is ‘let off the hook’ when it comes to investigating the pandemic.

Dr David Nabarro told the Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme on Sky News: ‘When we’re dealing with pandemics it’s a joint effort between national governments and the WHO. We are mutually dependent on each other and no nation is let off the hook.’

He said the WHO is not an ‘independent superpower’ with ‘carte blanche’ to do what it wants and must ‘work within the rules set by the governments that own it’.

He said the WHO has scientists ‘who just want to do the best science in the world and all they do all the time is to push at countries when countries are somewhat pushing back at us, and we just say ‘give us what we need’, and we’re not going to stop that.’

Asked if the world is owed an apology after the WHO said it was unlikely coronavirus entered the human population as a result of a laboratory-related incident, he said: ‘I think all of us who work in the issue of this pandemic need to be constantly apologising because the fact that this pandemic is causing so much suffering is something that is a great distress.’

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