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The Tory MP for Bournemouth East has said it remains impossible to rule out the possibility that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the global pandemic, was artificially created, or enhanced, in a laboratory – and that without the cooperation of the Chinese, it probably always will be. Mr Ellwood acknowledged that rogue nations and non-state actors around the world will have studied the events of the past 18 months in terms of the potential for pathogens to cause “maximum chaos”.
He told Express.co.uk: “We’ve had ricin and sarin threats in the past, on a smaller scale.
“And the concept of biochemical warfare has developed in the last couple of centuries.
“Once again we need to pay attention to the fact that, you know after recognising the huge damage to the economy – and to life – caused by COVID-19, you know, extremists will be looking carefully at how they can leverage this capability.”
He explained: “In the same way that you have dirty weapons made from nuclear material you could see a crude bioweapon made in similar circumstances.
“There are two ways these operate. One is simply through viral spread, as we’ve seen with Covid.
“The other is that it’s initiated through an aerosol or explosion technique and it hits the area – let’s say a tube line attack. “But either way it would be devastating.”
Mr Ellwood said the pandemic was a “double-edged sword”, with the potential to learn valuable lessons about how to manage future health emergencies – but only if the world was prepared to learn them.
He said: “Right now, there are international organisations and we have biochemical conventions but they lack any power to hold rogue nations or indeed non-state actors to account.”
Referring to the much-criticised World Health Organization investigation into the origins of the disease, which was hamstrung by a lack of cooperation from Beijing, he added: “In this particular case we’re dealing with right now, the World Health Organisation was entirely unable to mop up any evidence that might be useful in better understanding where Ground Zero was and indeed who Patient Zero was.
“They did their best but they were very late and they could not interview the original patients.
“They weren’t even allowed to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, let alone even take samples from the wet market conclusions.
“So what conclusions can you seriously drawn from the World Health Organisation studies?”
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As for the plausibility of COVID-19 having been created in a lab – which Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sorensen recently having concluded “beyond reasonable doubt” that it was, he said: “It isn’t so much that it’s plausible, it’s that there’s not enough information to rule it out.
“Don’t forget you’re dealing with a very clever, very advanced political machine that has experience in denial in obfuscation, and distraction and deception.
“We must also recognise that this is a state where people themselves live in fear, and we can dismiss the idea that people would step forward to report this – it simply wouldn’t be the case.
“Dr Liu, the one doctor who dared to speak up, was arrested, and that I’m afraid is the culture that you have that you’re dealing with.
“So all of that makes it very difficult to rule this out.”
With respect to the circumstances in which the disease manifested itself, he speculated: “There was an anthrax spillage in Russia, which was a genuine accident but they were making something terrible.
“They were deliberately making anthrax to be placed on ballistic missiles, which will be pointing towards the West. But the leak itself was an absolute accident.
“Likewise, this could have been a project, a military-grade study where it leaked out into the general public and then, of course, the rest is history rather than it being done deliberately.
“That is the bigger question, that this was a bioweapon being procured that quite simply leaked into the public domain.”
Irrespective, Mr Ellwood said the pandemic had demonstrated how crucial it was for the international community to cooperate in the future.
He said: “We’re not doing enough. It requires national collaboration. It must be one of those difficult subjects that the G7 agree on because you need the majority of nations to lean forward, and agree we need robust rules in place to prevent this happening on this scale again.
“There is a desire to consider this a once in a century event but it’s difficult to appreciate the sheer consequences to our world were we to endure this entire experience again for example, in another five years.”
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