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Former MI6 spy chief claims deadly Covid-19 virus escaped from Chinese lab during experiments

The former head of MI6 believes the origins of the coronavirus pandemic can be traced to the virus accidentally escaping from a Chinese laboratory.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who spent 38 years with Britain’s secret service, said he had seen a new scientific report that suggested the virus was engineered by boffins in China.

He was speaking on The Daily Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast. Experts widely agree that the virus originated in animals before being transmitted to humans.

Sir Richard said a scientific paper published this week by a Norwegian-British research team suggested key elements in the genetic sequence of the virus were “inserted” and may not have evolved naturally.

Sir Richard Dearlove at the Hay Festival

The Daily Telegraph reported that the study, produced by Professor Angus Dalgleish of St George’s Hospital at the University of London and Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen, claims to have found “inserted sections placed on the SARS-CoV-2 Spike surface” which could explain how the virus binds with human cells.

Sir Richard suggested scientists may have been experimenting on bat coronaviruses when Covid-19 escaped.

“I do think that this started as an accident,” Sir Richard said. “(The study is) 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.”

An earlier version of the study claimed to prove “beyond reasonable doubt that the Covid-19 virus is engineered”.

Further analysis of the research, due to be released in the coming days, reportedly claims the Covid-19 virus has “unique fingerprints” that indicate “purposive manipulation” by humans.

“As 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,” Sir Richard said.

Downing Street said officials had seen no evidence the virus was man-made.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Both the Health Secretary and the chief medical officer’s office have spoken about this previously and have said that we have seen no evidence that the virus is man-made.”

But the spokesman added:

“There will need to be an independent inquiry to establish precisely how this virus spread and when.”

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