The news comes as leaked emails claim senior global virologists and scientists discussed the origins of the virus in a string of secret emails. Following the leak, it became apparent the scientists protected China, and in particular the Wuhan Institute of Virology in order to prevent damage to the reputation of Chinese science. Matt Ridley, the co-author of “Viral – The Search for the Origin of COVID-19” claims that having spoken to senior virologists, he was “duped” into believing the theory that the virus came from the lab could be eliminated.
He states: “The Nature Medicine paper included a passage saying the virus would have then required repeated passage in cell culture or animals with ACE2 receptors, but such work has also not previously been described.”
He added: “It is surprising to learn now that Sir Jeremy Farrar himself thought this very ‘passage’ operation was a ‘likely explanation’ of how the virus came to have its unique features.”
With three articles published by senior scientists ruling out the notion that the virus leaked from Wuhan, Mr Ridley claims he was often asked when writing his book as to what his thoughts were on the subject.
He said writing in The Telegraph: “At the time, given that I had written extensively on genomics, I was asked often about the chances that the pandemic started with a lab leak and I said this had been ruled out, pointing to the three articles in question.”
Mr Ridley added: “Only later when I dug deeper, did I notice just how flimsy their arguments were.”
Following the leaked emails, Mr Ridley spoke of the findings the scientists involved in the chain had discovered.
He wrote: “Three of the five authors in that paper are shown in the emails to be leaning towards the conclusion either that a key part of the genome of the virus had been manipulated in a laboratory, or that the virus had mutated in human cells while in a lab.”
He added: “Yet they dismissed both possibilities in the paper they drafted.”
When discussing the notion of taking the findings public at the time, the author said: “Not only did they never breathe a word of this suspicion to the media or the public, they rubbished it.”
He added: “The meeting on February 1 led to an article from the very virologists who were making the case that the virus showed signs of having been in a lab.
“Yet, in the words of Dr Collins, the job of that article was to ‘settle’ the matter and ‘put down this very destructive conspiracy’ lest the rumours do harm to ‘international harmony’.”
He added: “Thankfully, staffers transcribed some of the contents.
“They show that Dr Fauci, Dr Collins and Sir Patrick Vallance, our Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, were briefed, on and after February 1, by several virologists who thought at the time that the new virus showed signs of having been manipulated in the laboratory.”
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Mr Ridley was not the only person seeking to clarify the situation.
Freedom of Information requests sent last year produced farcical results in both Britain and America: ghost emails with all the contents redacted.
Now, the US government has been forced to make unredacted versions available to Republicans on the House of Representatives oversight committee for an “in camera review”.
China has vehemently denied the idea that the virus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
Beijing suggests that the blame game is solely political, and has urged the World Health Organisation (WHO) to follow scientific facts over political pressure.
Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said China has never rejected cooperation on tracing the origins of COVID-19 but rejects the politicisation of such a search.
“We oppose political tracing … and abandoning the joint report” issued after the WHO team’s Wuhan visit, Mr Ma told reporters. “We support scientific tracing.”
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the initial probe into Wuhan’s virology labs had not gone far enough, while US President Joe Biden in May ordered a separate investigation into the virus origins from the US intelligence community.
Danish scientist Peter Ben Embarek, who led the international mission to Wuhan, said a lab employee infected while taking samples in the field falls under one of the likely hypotheses as to how the virus passed from bats to humans.