The UK’s Vaccines Minister has insisted that the World Health Organisation must be able to fully investigate the origins of the pandemic, following reports that British agents believe it is “feasible” that the coronavirus emerged after a laboratory leak.
Speaking to Sky News, Nadhim Zahawi said it’s vital that the WHO is “allowed to conduct its investigation unencumbered” as it seeks to better understand how the initial outbreak began, adding that “we should leave no stone unturned”.
There has been renewed interest in how the pandemic began this week, after President Joe Biden asked US intelligence agencies to re-investigate the origins and report back in 90 days. Facebook also said it will no longer ban posts claiming Covid-19 was man made.
According to a Sunday Times report, Western intelligence – including Britain – at first considered there was only a “remote” chance that it had leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where research is conducted into bat-derived coronaviruses.
But there has since been a reassessment, and a lab escape is thought “feasible”, sources revealed.
Yet, amid mounting tensions between China and the West, the WHO’s director of emergencies, Dr Mike Ryan, warned on Friday that efforts to better understand how the virus emerged are “being poisoned by politics”.
“We would like for everyone out there to separate, if they can, the politics of this issue from the science,” he told a press conference.
Meanwhile, Zahawi said the government was waiting for the latest data on June 14 before deciding whether to proceed with easing the lockdown on June 21.
Asked whether that step could be taken if cases were still increasing, he told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
“What I’m saying to you is we have to be cautious. We have to look at the data and share it with the country.
“Are we still vaccinating at scale? Big tick. Are the vaccines working? Yes. But are infection rates too high for us to then not be able to proceed because there are too many people getting into hospital? I don’t know the answer to it.
“But we will know it on, hopefully on the 14th, a few more weeks.”
He added that as the virus becomes endemic “we’re going to have to live with a certain amount of Covid being transmitted”.
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