Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), has said on The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast that a scientific report published this week by a Norwegian-British research team suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of the respiratory virus “escaping” a laboratory in China, APA reports citing Sputnik.
According to the “important” new report, cited by Sir Richard Dearlove, 75, clues have been discovered within the genetic sequence of the virus, seeming to suggest that its key elements were man-made, and "inserted", writes the outlet.
The report cited by the outlet is likely to feed into claims that China should pay "reparations" for the global death toll and economic fallout from the pandemic, as Beijing has been taking efforts from the beginning of the outbreak to "lock down" debates over the origins of the virus, the ex-intelligence chief is quoted as saying.
"I do think that this started as an accident… It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership," Sir Richard Dearlove, who was the head of MI6 between 1999 and 2004, told The Telegraph's podcast.
Suggesting that Chinese scientists were possibly carrying out clandestine gene-splicing experiments on bat coronaviruses when the virus escaped due to biosecurity flaws, Dearlove said:
"It's a risky business if you make a mistake. Look at the stories... of the attempts by the leadership to lock down any debate about the origins of the pandemic and the way that people have been arrested or silenced. I mean, we shouldn't really have any doubt any longer about what we're dealing with."
While stopping short of accusing Beijing of intentionally releasing the virus, in the interview Dearlove does accuse China of subsequently covering up the scale of the epidemic.
"Of course, the Chinese must have felt, well, if they've got to suffer a pandemic maybe we shouldn't try too hard to stop, as it were, our competitors suffering the same disadvantages we've got," said the former MI6 chief.