The British government censored former health secretary Matt Hancock’s references to the Wuhan virus likely being the result of a lab leak in his memoirs, its position being that the outbreak’s location was “entirely coincidental”.
Matt Hancock MP was Secretary of State for Health and Social Care through much of the coronavirus pandemic, but brought down when leaked camera footage exposed the fact that he was conducting a rule-breaking extramarital affair with staffer Gina Coladangelo.
Further large-scale leaks, this time of messages sent and received by Hancock, have now revealed that his memoirs were censored before publication by the Cabinet Office of the British government, which was especially keen to suppress references to the likelihood that COVID-19 came from a Chinese laboratory rather than a wet market.
“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,” Hancock wrote in the original version of his memoirs, as quoted by The Telegraph.
“The only plausible alternative is that the virus was brought to Wuhan to be studied, and then escaped,”
Hancock added that the “Chinese denials [of a lab leak] 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.”
Porton Down is a British facility which, officially, “carries out research to ensure that the UK’s military and wider public benefit from the latest technical and scientific developments”, with “much of this work” being “secret” in “the interests of national security”.
It was originally founded as a chemical and biological warfare research institute, however.
In another censored extract, Hancock again stated that “[g]iven how cagey the Chinese have been, I think we have to treat their official version of events – still the Wuhan thing – with considerable scepticism,” before once again referencing Porton Down.
“Imagine there was an outbreak of a deadly new virus in Wiltshire” — where Porton Down is based — “and we shrugged off the fact that the outbreak ‘just so happened’ to be near a little place called Porton Down,” he suggested.
“We’d be laughed out of town.”
The Cabinet Office, which is entitled to review memoirs like Hancock’s prior to publication to ensure they do not reveal official secrets or otherwise jeopardise national security, expressed considerable unhappiness at his articulation of this narrative — one which saw many regular citizens branded conspiracy theorists and sometimes banned from social media at the time:
This is highly sensitive and would cause problems if released. Must be clearer that it is supposition rather than revealing any confidential information received from inside government. Should also be clear that this is not [the government’s] views or beliefs. The reference to Porton Down is damaging to national security – what is set up as a joke, is one of the attack lines Russia has used against us for the Novichok poisoning, as it is only a few miles from Porton Down to Salisbury (which is entirely coincidental – as, we believe, it is that the Wuhan lab is so close to where the first covid outbreak was recorded).
The allusions to “Salisbury” are a reference to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal, alleged by Britain and its allies to have been targeted by Russian assassins with Novichok nerve agent in the English cathedral city in 2018.
Interestingly, the comments on the “entirely coincidental” origin point of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan appear to be the first time the official position of the British government has been stated clearly — in comments that were, perhaps notably, not intended for public consumption.
This position is at odds with the reported position of some in the federal government of the United States, with the Wall Street Journal recently reporting that an Energy Department investigation aligned with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) findings in concluding that a lab leak origin for the virus is likely.
Former CNN President Jeff Zucker ordered employees during Trump’s administration not to investigate the theory that the coronavirus pandemic was sparked by a lab leak in China, calling it a “Trump talking point,” according to a report. https://t.co/rzArGd8vUj
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) March 6, 2023