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Report: Former British health secretary was censored by government on lab leak claims, China criticism

Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Over 100,000 WhatsApp messages attributed to former British health secretary Matt Hancock were recently leaked to the Telegraph by the journalist with whom he penned his book, "Pandemic Diaries."

Hancock's correspondences have since provided Britons with some insight into the machinations and thinking of their government at the outset of the pandemic.

For instance, they learned that at one stage via messages from Hancock's deputy in the Department of Health and Social Care from 2020 to 2021 that ministers had considered exterminating all cats in the isles to prevent the spread of COVID.

Perhaps more alarming is the new report that the British government sought to prevent Hancock from suggesting in his book, "Pandemic Diaries," that COVID-19 may have come from a Chinese lab.

Ministry of truth

The Telegraph reported that Hancock initially intended to suggest the zoonotic origins theory "just doesn't fly."

However, the Cabinet Office, keen not to "cause problems" with the genocidal Chinese Communist Party, stressed to the health secretary that the British government's position was that the outbreak's location (i.e., near a controversial lab that conducted dangerous experiments on coronaviruses) was "entirely coincidental."

This so-called coincidence claimed the lives of tens of millions worldwide, including over 207,000 in the United Kingdom.

The difference between the following excerpts, first as they appeared in Hancock's manuscript, then as they appear in their final form in the book as approved by the Cabinet Office after it had made its changes, are significant.

In the manuscript, Hancock wrote: "Given how cagey the Chinese have been, I think we have to treat their official version of events – still the Wuhan thing – with considerable scepticism. Imagine there was an outbreak of a deadly new virus in Wiltshire and we shrugged off the fact that the outbreak ‘just so happened’ to be near a little place called Porton Down. We’d be laughed out of town. Global fear of the Chinese must not get in the way of a full investigation into what happened."

The Cabinet Office suggested this "is highly sensitive and would cause problems if released."

It would appear global fear of the Chinese regime was sufficient to thwart even a cabinet minister's discussion of a full investigation.

In the sanitized version, the Cabinet Office had the following go to print: "Though the international consensus and the government’s position is that the virus originated at the Wuhan wet market, I remain sceptical. There must be a full investigation into what happened."

The Telegraph revealed that the Cabinet Office claimed in response to Hancock's initial writ that "the reference to Porton Down is damaging to national security," as Russia had drawn a link between the bioweapons lab and the Novichok poisoning just a few miles away.

Porton Down is the site where the U.K. conducts some of its military research and was where the government ran its chemical and biological weapons program until allegedly closing it down in 1950. Now, officials claim that Porton Down has since been "active in developing effective countermeasures to the constantly evolving threat posed by chemical and biological weapons."

Whereas some portions of Hancock's manuscript were sanitized, others were purged altogether.

The former health secretary reportedly planned to write in one section, "To me it seems pretty credible. It’s just too much of a coincidence that the pandemic started in the same city as the lab, which – by the way, is a full 40 minutes drive from the wet market originally linked to the outbreak."

"The only plausible alternative is that the virus was brought to Wuhan to be studied, and then escaped," he added. "The Chinese denials are a bit like us claiming that a random virus just happened to break out near a little place called Porton Down, perhaps because of some badgers. It just doesn’t fly."

Again, the Cabinet Office apparently did not find that this telling satisfactorily complemented the Chinese regime's preferred narrative. Hancock was permitted only to say, "To me, this explanation seems pretty credible. The plausible alternative is that the virus was brought to Wuhan to be studied and then escaped."

Appeasing the dragon

The British government's public view on the origins of COVID-19 has evolved slowly over the years.

When the Trump administration suggested the virus originated in a CCP lab at the outset of the pandemic, Foreign Policy reported the United Kingdom was unwilling to upset Beijing with similar boldness.

Then-prime minister Boris Johnson told reporters in May 2020 that "[c]learly there are questions that need to be answered about the origin and spread of the virus," adding that "[t]his will need to be done with all our international partners, including China."

According to the Sun, Johnson had been briefed by national security officials in April about the possibility of a lab leak, elsewhere derided as a conspiracy theory. His chief advisor at the time, Dominic Cummings, suggested there was uncertainty about whether the virus was engineered, whether it escaped from a lab, and what the implications might be.

In March 2021, the World Health Organization issued a China-approved and Chinese co-authored report concluding "a laboratory incident was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway."

Shortly thereafter, Johnson, still publicly preferential to the zoonotic origin theory, claimed the government believed it was "much more likely" that the Wuhan virus "jumped" from animals to humans.

While Johnson was hedging, British intelligence agencies finally admitted that lab origins were "feasible."

Cambridge bio-security fellow Hamish de-Bretton Gordon told the Telegraph in February 2022 that attitudes had since changed in the British government, noting a growing sense that the "zoonotic transfer theory just didn't make sense."

"There is a huge amount of concern about coming out publicly, but behind closed doors most people think it’s a lab leak. 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," said Gordon.

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