Former MI6 head claims COVID-19 was made in a Chinese lab

Sir Richard Dearlove said there was good evidence that the virus was engineered, but that it's escape from the laboratory was accidental.

Sir Richard Dearlove, former Chief, British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). May 3, 2011. (photo credit: LUCY NICHOLSON / REUTERS)
Sir Richard Dearlove, former Chief, British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). May 3, 2011.
(photo credit: LUCY NICHOLSON / REUTERS)
A former head of the British intelligence agency MI6 has said that he believes the COVID-19 virus was created in a lab and spread accidentally. Speaking to The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, Sir Richard Dearlove cited recent research which claimed to have found key evidence that the virus had been manipulated to bind to humans.
If accurate, the research would have far-reaching political effects as governments around the world re-examined their dealings with the Communist state, including raising the question of reparation payments from China to the rest of the world for the damage caused by the virus.
"I do think that this started as an accident," Richard told the Telegraph, citing a peer-reviewed paper by Professor Angus Dalgleish of St George's Hospital at the University of London, and the Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen.
According to Richard, the pair claimed to have identified "inserted sections placed on the SARS-CoV-2 Spike surface," which allow the virus to bind to human cells, in contrast to alternate theories that the virus originated in animals, likely bats and pangolins, and mutated naturally to make the jump to human hosts.
Moreover, they warn that current efforts to develop a vaccine are likely to be unsuccessful, as the true causation of the virus's effects are being misunderstood by other scientists. The researchers are therefore working on their own vaccine, produced by Immunor AS, a Norwegian pharmaceutical company led by Sorensen according to the Telegraph.
The research paper was "a very important contribution to a debate which is now starting about how the virus evolved and how it got out and broke out as a pandemic," Richard said, adding: "I think this particular article is very important, and I think it will shift the debate."
DALGLEISH AND Sorensen's article was re-written a number of times after early versions failed to achieve publication. An early version seen by the Telegraph suggested that COVID-19 be known as the "Wuhan virus," and said that it was "beyond reasonable doubt that the COVID-19 virus is engineered." The authors originally noted: "We are aware that these findings could have political significance and raise troubling questions."
However, the paper was not accepted for publication until the authors had re-drafted to remove explicit claims against China. Following the edits, the science presented within the paper was deemed of sufficient worth for publication in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, chaired by leading scientists from Stanford University and the University of Dundee.
"This article was submitted to a… journal, which refused it within a week of receiving it, and in the same period accepted for publication two or three Chinese articles that relate to the virus, within 48 hours," Richard said.
A follow-up study not yet released but seen by the Telegraph claims that the coronavirus includes "unique fingerprints" that are "indicative of purposive manipulation."
Sir Richard continued: "[A]s this debate about the virus develops, I think all this material is going to be in print and is going to embarrass a number of people. Let's suggest that the Chinese maybe have too much say in their journals – in what appears and what doesn't."
For his part, Richard was convinced that the paper was accurate, suggesting that Chinese scientists may have been experimenting with gene-splicing on bat coronaviruses when the disease escaped the lab through a lapse in bio security. "It's a risky business if you make a mistake," he said.
Although he did not believe that the Chinese released the virus intentionally, Richard told the Telegraph that the Chinese regime handled the outbreak very differently from the way a Western government might have dealt with it, and that the incident should be a wake-up call for the rest of the world on underestimating the scope of Chinese global ambitions.
"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," he said. "I mean, we shouldn't really have any doubt any longer about what we're dealing with.
"Of course, the Chinese must have felt [that] 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.'
"Look, the Chinese understand us extremely well," he said. "They have made a study of us over the last decade or longer, particularly through attending our universities. We understand the Chinese very poorly. It's an imbalanced relationship in that respect."
AUSTRALIA HAS been taking the lead on pushing for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the global response to COVID-19, an ambition which was agreed to by the World Health Organization in late May. China launched cyberattacks and trade restrictions against the Antipodean state in response.
"I think it's very courageous of the Australians to take China on," Richard said. "I mean, there's an obvious, huge imbalance in terms of power, both economic and military and political, but they are showing the way. You have to have a critical relationship with China."
He urged the British authorities to do the same, calling for the government to scrap plans to place the construction of Britain's new 5G network in the hands of Chinese telecoms firm Huawei, and to reduce reliance on Chinese-made personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.
"We need to go into reverse," he said. "It's important that we do not put any of our critical infrastructure in the hands of Chinese interests. So telecommunications, Huawei, nuclear power stations, and then things that we require and need in a crisis, like PPE."
"We have allowed China so much rope that we are now suffering the consequences, and it's time to pull the rope in and to tighten the way we do business," he said. "It's very, very important that we keep a keen eye on this and do not allow the Chinese to, as it were, benefit strategically from this situation that has been imposed on all of us."