The British government is taking steps to increase bio-security and protect against "natural zoonosis and laboratory leaks," Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed the House of Commons Tuesday.
Johnson's announcement comes as a British expert on chemical and biological counterterrorism involved with crafting the U.K.'s bio-security strategy claims most people within the government believe the lab-leak theory is the most likely explanation for the origins of COVID-19.
The Telegraph reports that the government has asked for evidence before drafting a new bio-security strategy, which will cover "accidental release and dual-use research of concern, where life science research is capable of being misapplied to do harm."
Former British Army officer Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is one person who has submitted evidence for the strategy.
He told the Telegraph that the "official view" within the government is that a lab leak "is as likely as anything else to have caused the pandemic."
"A lot of people like myself think it is more likely. I think attitudes have changed a little bit. The zoonotic transfer theory just didn’t make sense," he said.
Over the past two years, it has come to light that Chinese researchers in Wuhan had been collecting and performing risky experiments on dangerous bat coronaviruses with funding from U.S. taxpayers. After the first major COVID-19 outbreak was traced to Wuhan in early 2020, some scientists speculated that the virus may have been engineered and could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Prominent public health officials around the world later asserted it was more likely that the virus developed in nature, but an animal host for the SARS-CoV-2 virus — from which the virus would make the evolutionary leap to human beings — was never discovered.
With that context, Johnson's request that the U.K. re-evaluate its strategies to prevent laboratory leaks appears to at least imply that British officials find the lab-leak origins theory credible enough to take precautions against any such thing happening in the U.K.
“There is a huge amount of concern about coming out publicly, but behind closed doors most people think it’s a lab leak," de Bretton-Gordon told the Telegraph. "And they are coming round to the fact that even if they don’t agree with that, they must accept it’s likely, and they must make sure the policies are in place to stop it.”
“My view, that I’ve put to the Government already, is that we cannot afford emotionally, physically or financially, to go through another pandemic. We must now get on the front foot,” he added.