Coronavirus News Asia

Wuhan lab virus leak ‘no longer discounted’: Cobra


While “the balance of scientific advice” is still that the deadly coronavirus was first transmitted to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, a leak from a laboratory in the Chinese city is “no longer being discounted” by UK ministers, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday.

One member of Cobra, the emergency committee led by Boris Johnson, said last night that while the latest intelligence did not dispute the virus was “zoonotic” – originating in animals – it did not rule out that the virus first spread to humans after leaking from a Wuhan laboratory, the report said. 

The member of Cobra, which receives detailed classified briefings from the security services, 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.”

The Johnson government is reported to be furious after scientists told the PM China may have downplayed its number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus “by a factor of 15 to 40 times.”

The £30-million institute, based ten miles from the infamous wildlife market, is supposed to be one of the most secure virology units in the world, the report said. 

The state-run People’s Daily newspaper said in 2018 that it was “capable of conducting experiments with highly pathogenic microorganisms” such as the deadly Ebola virus. 

Scientists at the institute were the first to suggest that the virus’s genome was 96% similar to one commonly found in bats. 

But despite its reputation for high security, there have been unverified local reports that workers at the institute became infected after being sprayed by blood, and then carried the infection into the local population, the report said. 


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