British intelligence agencies now believe it is “feasible” that the COVID pandemic originated in a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China.
After initially dismissing the possibility as remote, along with the majority of Western intelligence services, British spies are now probing whether the pathogen escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), where research was conducted into bat-derived coronaviruses, according to the Sunday Times.
The lab-leak theory gained renewed attention, after initially being dismissed by much of the mainstream press, due to reports that three researchers at the WIV fell ill and were hospitalized with symptoms associated with the virus in November 2019. While China has claimed that the first confirmed case of COVID was recorded on December 8, 2019, in Wuhan and has dismissed the lab leak hypothesis, the World Health Organization (WHO) director has admitted the agency did not thoroughly investigate it.
Western intelligence, including in Britain, formerly believed the lab leak was only a “remote” possibility. Sources indicated, however, that after re-evaluating the circumstantial evidence, the British intelligence community now calls it “feasible.”
After complaints were raised that the initial WHO inquiry was compromised by Chinese influence, Republican lawmakers demanded an independent American investigation into COVID’s origins without international interference. During press briefings, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and U.S. public health officials had blamed the delay in the original probe on China’s withholding of valuable data and information pertinent to the study.
Some intelligence bodies in the UK also suspect that Chinese secrecy and manipulation are impeding the pursuit of truth on the matter. “There might be pockets of evidence that take us one way, and evidence that takes us another way. The Chinese will lie either way. I don’t think we will ever know,” said a western intelligence source familiar with UK involvement in the probe.
Last week, President Joe Biden directed U.S. intelligence agencies to examine the lab leak theory and report their findings within 90 days in the hopes of reaching a “definitive conclusion.” American and British intelligence are now collaborating on that mission.
US diplomatic sources said there were concerns that “this could happen again and we are one wet market or bio lab away from the next spillover” if an answer is not found.
Like prominent Republicans in Congress, some Conservative politicians in the British government are sounding the alarm on the lab-leak theory, anchoring the topic in the international spotlight.
“The silence coming from Wuhan is troubling. We need to open the crypt and see what happened to be able to protect ourselves in the future. That means starting an investigation, along with partners around the world and in the WHO,” conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, told the Times.
For the last year, scientific dissent from the position that the virus transferred from animals to humans has been silenced and suppressed. Scientists who challenged the default thinking were branded as “conspiracy theorists,” Jamie Metzl, adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on human genome editing and senior fellow with the Atlantic Council think tank, told the Times.
“Since the earliest days of the pandemic there were a small number of leading scientists who took it upon themselves to enforce this kind of orthodoxy,” Metzl added.