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Cabinet Office ‘asks Matt Hancock to downplay lab leak claims’

HealthCOVID-19Cabinet Office 'asks Matt Hancock to downplay lab leak claims'
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Matt Hancock was instructed by the Cabinet Office to downplay claims in his memoir that the Covid-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory leak in China, according to leaked correspondence.

The Daily Telegraph reported that officials warned it would “cause problems” if Hancock repeated the claim in his pandemic diaries and insisted he should clarify that he was not reflecting the government’s view.

Changes were made to the book after the manuscript was submitted to the Cabinet Office for review last year – a process all former ministers are bound to follow.

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According to the Telegraph, which has obtained thousands of messages from the former health secretary, Hancock wanted to say that “given how patriarchal the Chinese have been”, their official version of events should be regarded with “considerable skepticism”.

“Global fear of the Chinese should not get in the way of a full investigation of what happened,” he wrote in the original manuscript.

In response, the Cabinet Office wrote: “It is highly sensitive and will cause problems if released.

“Rather than disclosing any confidential information received from inside the government, it must be clear that it is speculation. It must also be clear that it is not the views or beliefs of HMG.”

It also raised concerns about a comparison proposed in the book between the Wuhan Institute of Virology – in the city where the virus first emerged – and the Ministry of Defense’s research laboratories in Porton Down.

Hancock originally wrote that it was “too much of a coincidence” that the pandemic began in the same city as the Institute.

“The only plausible option is that the virus was brought to Wuhan for study, and then escaped,” he wrote in an excerpt.

“The Chinese denialists are claiming like ours that a random virus happened to break out near a small place called Porton Down, probably because of some badgers. It doesn’t even fly.”

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However, the Cabinet Office expressed concern that it could be seized by Russia, which its government had previously claimed The Novichok nerve agent used in the Salisbury poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal originated in Porton Down.

“The reference to Porton Down is detrimental to national security – which is set up as a joke, one of the lines of attack Russia used against us for the Novichok poisoning, as it ran from Porton Down to Salisbury ( Which is completely coincidental – as, we believe, is that the Wuhan lab is very close to where the first Covid outbreak was recorded),” the Cabinet Office said.

The disclosure came after the head of the FBI said last week that the agency was assessing that Covid was “most likely” the result of a lab leak,

In response to the Telegraph report, a government spokesman said: “We will not comment on leaks or private discussions.”

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