British ministers are no longer discounting the theory that coronavirus originated after leaking from a Chinese bioresearch lab in Wuhan, according to reports.
Senior sources have reportedly admitted while the balance of scientific advice is that the virus originated naturally, a leak is also being considered by security services.
Theories about the origins of coronavirus being linked to a lab in Wuhan have been batted around since the early days out of the outbreak.
One member of Cobra, the emergency committee led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, said security services are now considering a possible leak, reports The Mail on Sunday.
The source added, however, they did not dispute the virus was Zoonotic – meaning it originated in animals.
Chinese officials have previously attempted to dismiss claims of a leak as internet rumors.
The government source’s comments come as pressure ratchets up on China to come clean over the outbreak.
More than 1.2 million people have been infected worldwide, and almost 65,000 people have been killed during the pandemic.
The member of Cobra, which receives classified briefings from British intelligence, said – there is a credible alternative view (to the zoonotic theory) based on the nature of the virus.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that there is that laboratory in Wuhan. It is not discounted.
Downing Street has said it does not recognize the claims made by the source.
Some unfounded conspiracy theories circulated worldwide have claimed coronavirus is a kind of man-made bioweapon, but there is no evidence of this.
Wuhan is home to the Institute of Virology, the most advanced laboratory of its type in mainland China.
The £30 million institute is just ten miles from the wildlife market which is believed to have been at the centre of the outbreak.
Scientists at the institute were the first to link the new coronavirus to bats.
The state-run People’s Daily newspaper also boasted in 2018 that the lab was capable of conducting experiments with highly pathogenic microorganisms.
Unverified local claims have suggested workers at the lab became infected after being sprayed with blood, and then carried in infection into the local population.
The city also has a second lab – the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control (WCDC), which is just three miles from the market – which is also believed to have carried out virus experiments on animals.
Video emerged last week of a Chinese scientist catching bats for viral experimentation at the WCDC.
The conventional wisdom is however still that the virus passed from bats to another animal and then to humans at one of Wuhan’s so-called wet markets.
Following the coronavirus outbreak, China has issued new laws that call for facilities to ensure biological safety and improve the management of viruses.
A leak from a Chinese lab led to an outbreak of Sars that killed one person and infected nine others in 2004.
The Chinese government admitted the leak was down to negligence and that five officials were punished.
China has been accused of attempting to cover-up the initial outbreak as the virus took hold in the city of Wuhan.
A doctor who first warned about the virus was threatened by police, and then last month Chinese officials suggested the US military may have been responsible for coronavirus.
China now claims it has weathered the virus storm, and yesterday mourned victims with a three-minute silence as it positions itself as a world leader amid the pandemic.
In a letter to the Mail on Sunday responding claims China would face a “reckoning” from Britain over the outbreak, the Chinese embassy hit back – but declined comment on the lab origin theories.
Chinese embassy official Zen Rong said: “Such reports completely disregard the tremendous efforts and huge sacrifice of China and its people, and deny China’s significant contribution to global public health and safety.
China wasted no time in identifying the virus’s pathogen, sharing the genetic sequence with the World Health Organisation, taking the most effective, strict and comprehensive measures to contain the spread of the disease, sharing experience with other countries in need, and providing assistance to more than 120 countries, including the UK, and to four international organizations.
In a statement, an embassy spokesman added: There has been no scientific or medical conclusion yet on the origin of COVID-19, as relevant tracing work is still underway.
The WHO has made repeated statements that what the world is experiencing now is a global phenomenon, the source is undetermined, the focus should be on containment and any stigmatizing language referring to certain places must be avoided.
Questions loom large of the origins of the outbreak, and whether or not the Communist Party have been truthful over their death toll.
Biosecurity researcher Richard Ebright, a professor at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, said the coronavirus behind the pandemic was 96.2 percent similar to a bat virus discovered by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2013 and studied at the WCDC.
He said: “Bat coronaviruses are collected and studied by laboratories in multiple parts of China – including Wuhan Municipal CDC and Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Therefore, the first human infection also could have occurred as a laboratory accident.
China’s top virologist on bat-borne viruses, Shi Zhengli, has sworn in her life that the virus did not leak from her lab in Wuhan.
She blamed the virus has been spread by nature punishing the human race for keeping uncivilized living habits.
The researcher has told those claiming the virus came from her lab to shut their stinking mouths.
But she previously admitted she had lost sleep fearing the virus may have leaked from the research facility.
Politicians in both the United Kingdom and the United States have previously urged China to be more open about what it knows about the coronavirus.
Writing in the Telegraph last month, Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee called from greater transparency from China.
Mr. Ellwood, a former captain in the British Army, said it would irresponsible to outright blame the Chinese military, but said his job requires he understands threats facing the UK.
He wrote: I would like to know more about the Chinese army’s (lab), coincidentally located a stone’s throw from where the latest outbreak began.
He added: Successive US administrations have long believed that a number of countries, including China, maintain active biological programs.
But without greater Chinese transparency we cannot be completely sure. China’s immediate response to the outbreak in Wuhan was to squash the story.
The Chinese doctor who first raised the alarm was obliged to publicly retract his comments and charged with rumor-mongering.