Daily Mail

Hancock ‘told to stop criticisin­g China over Covid lab leak fears’

- By Martin Beckford Policy Editor

MATT Hancock was censored by Whitehall officials over his concerns that Covid-19 may have begun from a lab leak in Wuhan, it emerged last night.

The former health secretary wrote in his book that it was ‘too much of a coincidenc­e’ to believe the pandemic started in a market not far from a Chinese government’s biological research facility.

He said he treated the official version of events with ‘considerab­le scepticism’ and claimed similar claims by the British would have been ‘laughed out of town’.

But Mr Hancock was ordered to tone down his comments about the virus’s origins because the Government was worried it would ‘cause problems’ with Beijing, The Daily Telegraph reported. He also wanted to write that ‘global fear of the Chinese must not get in the way of a full investigat­ion’

‘Too much of a coincidenc­e’

– but this too was watered down. The changes were made when he submitted the manuscript of his Pandemic Diaries book to the Cabinet Office for review, as all former ministers are required to do. After the required alteration­s were made, it was signed off for publicatio­n by under-fire Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in November.

The Government has tried to avoid commenting publicly on the suspicion have been, I think we have to that the deadly virus may have treat their official version of events escaped from a laboratory, – still the Wuhan thing – with considerab­le although in the United States, scepticism.’ both the FBI and the Department He said that if a ‘deadly new for Energy now believe the theory virus’ had emerged in Wiltshire, is plausible. yet the British ‘shrugged off’ the

In the first of the extracts from fact that it was near chemical warfare his book that the Cabinet Office research facility Porton Down, objected to, Mr Hancock originally ‘we’d be laughed out of town’. wrote: ‘Given how cagey the Chinese ‘Global fear of the Chinese must

not get in the way of a full investigat­ion into what happened,’ he urged.

But the published version simply stated: ‘Though the internatio­nal consensus and the Government’s position is that the virus originated at the Wuhan wet market, I remain sceptical. There must be a full investigat­ion into what happened.’

In the interim, the Cabinet Office

had told Mr Hancock: ‘This is highly sensitive and would cause problems if released.’

He was told: ‘ Must be clearer that it is suppositio­n rather than revealing any confidenti­al informatio­n received from inside government. Should also be clear that this is not (the Government’s) views or beliefs.’

In another section, Mr Hancock

originally wrote: ‘To me it seems pretty credible. It’s just too much of a coincidenc­e that the pandemic started in the same city as the lab, which – by the way, is a full 40 minutes drive from the wet market originally linked to the outbreak. The only plausible alternativ­e is that the virus was brought to Wuhan to be studied, and then escaped.’

 ?? ?? Doubts: Scientists at the Wuhan lab
Doubts: Scientists at the Wuhan lab

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