Most eyes in Westminster are on the future, ahead of next week’s looming July 19 unlocking. But for one man at least, attention is focused on the past and how the world became engulfed in the Covid quagmire. Matt Ridley, the journalist, businessman and member of the House of Lords, has been using his pen throughout the pandemic to ask questions about the origins of the coronavirus – including within these own pages.
Now the peer’s seat in the Upper House has been roped into the cause too. In a little-noticed intervention last Wednesday, Ridley asked his fellow excerpted hereditary and health minister Jim Bethell a brace of questions on the possibility that the COVID-19 virus escaped from a laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, saying:
Viruses like this have not been found near Wuhan in bats or any other animals. The closest relative to this virus was brought to Wuhan by scientists from 1,000 miles away to a laboratory that had been manipulating SARS-like viruses for 15 years. There it was sequenced in 2017 and 2018 in a biosecurity level 2 laboratory. Most of that information was found out by independent investigators, not volunteered by the Chinese authorities. Will my noble friend unequivocally condemn that lack of transparency and join other nations in calling for a full and independent investigation? Will he clarify who is in charge in the British government of answering that question?
Bethell, who has had his own difficulties of late after granting Matt Hancock’s lover Gina Coladangelo a parliamentary pass, responded with a firm endorsement of Ridley’s position:
My Lords, I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by my noble friend. We are absolutely calling for a timely, transparent and evidence-based phase 2 study, including further investigation in China, as recommended by the experts’ report.