Boris Johnson has said he does not believe Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab in his closing press conference at the G7 summit in Cornwall.
Johnson said that “the advice we’ve had is that it doesn’t look like this particular disease of a zoonotic origin came from a lab”, after the G7 leaders spoke about the origins of Covid with the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief yesterday.
US President Joe Biden was less emphatic in his statements on the Covid origin today, saying “I haven’t reached a conclusion”.
The Prime Minister’s 40-minute final press conference saw the Prime Minister dodge a number of questions on tomorrow’s England Covid restrictions announcement and his row with EU leaders over Northern Ireland.
He also outlined some of the achievements of the 2021 G7 summit, including the combined donation of 1bn vaccines to poorer countries and the creation of a new green infrastructure scheme for the developing world.
The G7 leaders also spoke with WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday about the origins of Covid-19, after the US recently stepped up its investigation into whether the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The final summit communique also saw the G7 leaders call “for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China”.
“At the moment the advice we’ve had is that it doesn’t look like this particular disease of zoonotic origin came from a lab, clearly anybody sensible would want to keep an open mind on that,” Johnson said.
“I do think there’s a problem with zoonotic diseases and this is clearly something we need to focus on.”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said today that the “best information” the UK has is that Covid “jumped” from animals to humans.
Speaking at his post-summit press conference, Biden said: “We haven’t had access to the laboratories to determine, I haven’t’ reached a conclusion because our intelligence community isn’t certain yet, whether or not this was a consequence of a bat…and the environment that caused this or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a lab.
“We have to have access to [Chinese data] to build a system whereby we can know what and when we see another lack of transparency might lead to another pandemic.”
The WHO’s initial investigation into the origins of Covid-19 proved to be inconclusive, with further work soon to begin.
The organisation has complained that the Chinese government was not forthcoming in providing data and information that could uncover where the virus came from.
US President Joe Biden ordered a more thorough probe by American intelligence last month into whether the virus accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology – a belief that was held by the Donald Trump White House.
Biden said that US intelligence opinion on the lab leak theory is split, while infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has also said “we need to keep an open mind” on the theory.
Speaking to journalists at the G7 yesterday, Ghebreyesus said: “More than 174m people have been confirmed for Covid illness…3.75m people have died – this is very tragic.
“I think the respect people deserve is knowing what the origin of this virus is, so we can prevent it from happening again.
“We need cooperation from the Chinese side, we need transparency to understand and find the origin of this virus.
“As I indicated after the [initial] report [into Covid-19 origins] was released, there were difficulties in data sharing – especially raw data.”