Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Trump team will blame China lab for growing Covid-19 with 'bombshell' evidence as part of final salvos of president's administration - but UK dismisses claim

 America is set to present dramatic new evidence that the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab – in the final act of the Trump administration.

Senior officials in Washington say that outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to make a ‘bombshell intervention’.

They say he will reveal evidence that SARS-CoV-2 did not leap naturally from bats, pangolins or other species to humans.

Instead he will claim it was cultured by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology – where Chinese and foreign experts have warned of poor bio-security for years.

British Foreign Office and security sources confirmed they were expecting the claims from Washington but dismissed them in advance, saying ‘all the credible scientific evidence does not point to a leak from the laboratory’.

Researchers work in a lab of Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, Hubei province, China

Researchers work in a lab of Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, Hubei province, China

Pictured: Virologists work in the P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China

Pictured: Virologists work in the P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China

They said this view was backed up intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic, adding: ‘The established view of the US intelligence community suggests the pandemic was natural in origin.’

Yesterday Boris Johnson backed the theory the virus first infected humans at the Wuhan wet market, where pangolins were among the live species on offer.

But Mr Pompeo is also set to cite close links between the Institute and the People’s Liberation Army.

He will point out its highest security section has always had a ‘dual use’ military and civilian purpose.

He is also expected to accuse the World Health Organisation of assisting in a Chinese cover-up by refusing to probe the lab’s possible role.

Its ten-person team tasked with investigating the pandemic’s origins will arrive in Wuhan tomorrow – but there is no mention of the lab in its official terms of reference.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was ‘vital’ the WHO team probe the institute as the possible origin of the pandemic.

He said: ‘We don’t know whether this virus was natural or artificially created, and if it came from the lab, whether this was an accident or deliberate. It would be immoral and foolish to allow any sort of cover-up.

Investigation: Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was ¿vital¿ the WHO team probe the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China (pictured) as the possible origin of the Covid pandemic

Investigation: Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was ‘vital’ the WHO team probe the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China (pictured) as the possible origin of the Covid pandemic

‘If it emerges the virus did come from the lab, China will become the pariah of the world.’

China expert Sam Armstrong of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank said: ‘The global public has a right to know exactly what was going on prior to the emergence of this deadly pandemic. The question cannot be shirked.’

Dr Alina Chan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard, who has been investigating the start of the pandemic, pointed out Beijing had already dismissed the theory that wildlife at the wet market was the source.

She said: ‘It is critically important we do locate the origin if something like this is not to happen again.

'We have to take the necessary steps to do a proper investigation and, based on the available information, I don’t think the WHO is up to the task.’

David Relman, professor of microbiology at Stanford in California, has voiced fears that the Institute was genetically engineering natural viruses in ways that made them more transmissible.

Boris Johnson in a Protect The Pangolin t-shirt in 2018, while jogging with then Australian counterpart foreign minister Julie Bishop

Boris Johnson in a Protect The Pangolin t-shirt in 2018, while jogging with then Australian counterpart foreign minister Julie Bishop

He wrote in an academic article in November: ‘If SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a lab to cause the pandemic, it will become critical to understand the chain of events and prevent this from happening again.’

In 2018, US officials visited the Wuhan lab and warned of ‘a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators’.

Chinese reports reveal that in 2019, local Communist leaders warned of lax management and bio-security.

New safety guidelines were issued as late as January last year – when the pandemic was already starting to rage.

The lab’s highest security ‘P4’ section was built with French help in a deal signed off by Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. But after it opened in 2015, the French contingent due to work there were pushed out by China’s military.

A WHO spokesman said of its investigation: ‘We will follow the science.’

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