Covid’s origins may never be known, Britain’s top scientist has warned.
Dame Angela McLean, the government’s chief scientific advisor, claimed we will probably never know whether the virus occurred naturally or escaped from a lab.
It has been suggested that Covid was bio-engineered at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in central China, which specialised in studying coronaviruses.
Professor McLean, who took over from Sir Patrick Vallance, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I am convinced that we’re very unlikely ever to know if this was a virus that got out of a lab, or a natural virus that got into people by entirely natural routes.
‘We can’t see that from the biology of the virus.’
Professor Dame Angela McLean (pictured), the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I am convinced that we’re very unlikely ever to know if this was a virus that got out of a lab, or a natural virus that got into people by entirely natural routes’
It has been suggested that Covid was bio-engineered at Wuhan Institute of Virology (pictured) in central China, which specialised in studying coronaviruses
Other Covid origin theories point to Huanan seafood market in Wuhan as being the epicentre of the outbreak. Many of the earliest cases in December 2019 and January 2020 had visited the site, where live animals were sold
Asked if the Chinese should be honest about what happened in the lead-up to the pandemic, she said: ‘I think if I were a Chinese scientist, I wouldn’t go that way, because I think it might cause a lot of trouble for me.’
Last week, Professor McLean launched a new US-UK partnership to protect against future biological threats.
China’s government has dismissed suggestions Covid originated in the Wuhan lab.
But last year, the head of China’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Professor George Gao, said the possibility should not be ‘ruled out’.
Declassified US intelligence reports stated the lab-leak theory was ‘plausible’.
FBI director Christopher Wray believes Covid most likely originated in the lab, saying last year: ‘The FBI has for quite some time now assessed the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident.’
He accused China of ‘doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate’ efforts to identify the source of the global pandemic, which cost Britain an estimated £410billion.
While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
The initial investigation by the WHO in January 2021, which saw a group of scientists travel to Wuhan, concluded that ‘all hypotheses remain on the table’. In its March 2021 report, it ranked the likelihood of four theories, ruling the natural origins theory to be the most likely. But it placed the lab leak an ‘extremely unlikely pathway’ behind the frozen food origin story
An unnamed US official told the Sunday Times that scientists at the Wuhan lab were working with the Chinese military to combine the world’s most deadly coronaviruses to create a new mutant virus.
A joint China-World Health Organization (WHO) investigation in 2021 called the lab leak theory ‘extremely unlikely’.
However, the probe was widely criticised because it was based on flimsy evidence and the WHO did not push China to supply reliable data.
The WHO director-general has since called for a new inquiry, saying: ‘All hypotheses remain open and require further study.’
Many scientists point out there is no evidence that Covid leaked from a lab, and say it most likely jumped to humans from animals via a wet market in Wuhan.