Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

This file photo from, 2017 shows workers inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan, The facility is among a handful of labs around the world cleared to handle Class 4 pathogens (P4) - dangerous viruses that pose a high risk of person-to-person transmission. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Ex-UK spy chief: COVID-19 could be from Wuhan lab

  • Sir Richard Dearlove cites controversial study saying virus possibly man-made

LONDON: The coronavirus pandemic may have started by accident in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan, according to a former British spy.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK’s intelligence agency MI6 until 2004, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper that the origins of the virus may not reside in a wet market in Wuhan, where it had previously been suggested that it passed to humans from bats.

Instead, he claims that it may have escaped from a lab, citing a controversial study by British and Norwegian researchers, including Prof. Angus Dalgleish of St. George’s at the University of London and John Fredrik Moxnes, a chief scientific adviser to the Norwegian military.

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READ MORE: Did this Chinese government lab in Wuhan leak the coronavirus?

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The Chinese city is home to two labs that have carried out tests on bats, as well as coronaviruses, in the past: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The presence of both these facilities has fueled speculation that COVID-19 is the result of human error, and that the virus escaped the confines of testing to reach the local population by accident.

It is a theory that has been promoted most notably by US President Donald Trump, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously talked of “enormous evidence” that the virus is a man-made pathogen.

It has drawn criticism, though, from many scientists worldwide, and the study in question has been rejected by a number of scientific journals.

Evidence published in British medical journal The Lancet claimed to be able to trace 27 of the first 41 identified COVID-19 cases back to the same Wuhan wet market, reinforcing the original hypothesis.

The US National Intelligence Director’s office, meanwhile, said it took the view of “the wider scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified,” though it added that it would continue to assess all evidence to the contrary.

The study, though, claims to have identified evidence that the virus’s genetic sequence may have been edited, calling it a “remarkably well-adapted virus for human co-existence.” 

Sir Richard said scientists at one of the facilities may have been conducting “gene-splicing experiments” in an effort to identify potentially dangerous pathogens like the SARS epidemic in 2003.

“It’s a risky business if you make a mistake,” Sir Richard told the Telegraph. “Look at the stories ... of the attempts by the (Chinese) leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced.

“I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership.”

The UK government has said it has seen “no evidence” to suggest that the virus originated in a lab.


Malaysia launches Al Jazeera ‘sedition’ probe over documentary on migrant workers

Updated 51 min 28 sec ago

Malaysia launches Al Jazeera ‘sedition’ probe over documentary on migrant workers

  • Police call for program makers to come forward, explain report on mass arrests claim in COVID-19 lockdown hotspots

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian authorities on Tuesday launched an investigation into a TV documentary by Qatari state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera on the alleged mass arrests of migrant workers in Malaysia during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdowns.

Officials said the film report, titled “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown” and produced by Al Jazeera’s 101 East news program, had been an attempt to sully Malaysia’s international image.

The documentary highlighted the plight of thousands of undocumented migrants reportedly arrested during raids carried out in COVID-19 lockdown hotspots.

In a statement, Federal Criminal Investigations Department director, commissioner Huzir Mohamed, said: “The baseless and one-sided news report had subsequently caused uncertainty and anxiety among the majority of the population, as if portraying the government’s unyielding approach toward the broadcasting of inaccurate news on the government’s success in containing the outbreak.

“No one will be spared from the long arm of the law if they are found to have tarnished the country’s image.”

Mohamed added that police had so far received at least five police reports regarding the case and identified several individuals involved in assisting with the reporting.

“The police also call for the Al Jazeera journalist and others involved in the documentary production to come forward as soon as possible,” the commissioner said, adding that the channel would be investigated for alleged sedition.

The Malaysian Immigration Department also circulated a notice on Tuesday, saying it was looking for a 25-year-old Bangladeshi national who was one of the people quoted by Al Jazeera in the documentary.

Al Jazeera has so far not commented on the investigation.