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Wuhan officials tried to SUPPRESS Covid info when pandemic began

Chinese officials chose to suppress Covid instead of alerting world when pandemic began, claims editor of prestigious journal accused of siding with Beijing in origin cover-up claims

  • Dr Richard Horton has held the role of editor in chief of The Lancet since 1995
  • Initial Covid warnings did ‘not come through official channels’ he told the Inquiry

China chose to ‘suppress information’ instead of alerting the world to Covid, the editor of one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals claimed today. 

Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet since 1995, told the Covid Inquiry Beijing failed to inform international health bodies of the rapidly rising virus threat. 

He also called for laboratories working with highly dangerous microbes to undergo ‘stronger international regulation’. 

His comments come despite criticism that his journal has had its own role in stifling scientific debate about Covid’s origins and promoting the communist regime’s own theories on the cause of the pandemic.

Dr Horton told the probe: ‘The initial response by local government officials in Wuhan was to suppress information, not to report information. 

Dr Richard Horton, who has held the role of editor in chief of The Lancet since 1995, told the Covid Inquiry the Chinese Government failed to inform health bodies of the rapidly rising threat of the virus 

Read more: China finds two new coronaviruses lurking in bats… and claim they both have freak mutation to prove Covid was NOT engineered in a lab

‘The initial signal came through pro-MED. It did not come through official channels of the Chinese Government to the World Health Organization (WHO).’

Launched in 1994 as an email service, pro-MED alerts public health leaders, government officials and health experts to unusual health events related to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. 

‘I have spoken to the person who was leading the WHO office in China,’ he told the Inquiry. 

‘He had no direct contact from Chinese authorities in those early days about the outbreak in Wuhan. So, the channels didn’t work.’

Hugo Keith KC, counsel to the Inquiry, commented in reply: ‘They worked belatedly.’

But Dr Horton countered: ‘They worked by accident, not even belatedly.’ 

‘The WHO officials saw the pro-MED posting and then they were the ones who went to the Chinese authorities and said, “hey what’s going on?” 

‘The information flow was in the opposite direction. 

‘We desperately need an awareness and a global system, to detect pneumonias of unexplained origin.’

Under the leadership of Dr Horton, The Lancet itself has been accused of supporting the Chinese Government’s narrative over its handling of the virus.

Just as Covid started to spread, the journal published a letter from 27 experts which praised Beijing’s ‘rapid, open and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak’.

These authors also attacked the ‘conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid does not have a natural origin’, in a move that helped silence the lab-leak debate.

Once dismissed as a fringe conspiracy theory, the idea that Covid leaked from a Chinese laboratory has gained increasing traction in the years since the virus first caused a global pandemic.

These theories have centred on the biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was known to be working with coronaviruses found in bats. 

It’s not the only time the respected scientific journal has aligned itself with the viewpoint of President Xi Jinping Chinese Government.

While China has insisted the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have contemplated the possibility it leaked from a high-level biochemical lab in Wuhan – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread

Some experts now say Covid may have emerged from within the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Here security personnel are pictured keeping watch during a visit by the WHO in 2021

Other Covid origin theories point to Huanan seafood market in Wuhan as being the epicentre of the outbreak. Many of the earliest cases in December 2019 and January 2020 had visited the site, where live animals were sold

Last year The Lancet sensationally claimed it was ‘plausible’ Covid may have leaked out of a US lab, following a two-year investigation into the origins of the pandemic.

This claim mirrored the rhetoric of Beijing’s disinformation crusade, with Chinese  officials previously attempting to divert focus on Wuhan as the site of Covid’s origins to a US military base in Maryland.

Dr Horton opened his evidence this morning by addressing the families bereaved by the pandemic, paying condolences to them on behalf of the journal. 

Later, he added: ‘The UK’s national health security depends on global health security. We’re not safe unless the rest of the world is safe.

‘Of the BSL-4 labs in the world that might be dealing with potentially dangerous pathogens, there is no international oversight of those laboratories.

‘It is in our interest to make sure that we are an energetic and muscular proponent of stronger international regulation of BSL-4 laboratories for national health security in the UK.’ 

There are now an estimated 69 BSL-4 labs around the world, up from 59 just two years ago with the vast majority in urban areas. 

The first module of the Inquiry will conclude on July 19 after six weeks of witness evidence, but the probe as whole is not expected to end until 2026.

Professor Philip Banfield, chair of the British Medical Association’s UK council and Matt Fowler from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, are both expected to appear next week on Monday and Tuesday respectively. 

Will Boris Johnson be quizzed? Who else will be involved? And how long will it take? EVERYTHING you need to know about the Covid inquiry

Why was the inquiry set up?

There has been much criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, including the fact the country seemed to lack a thorough plan for dealing with such a major event.

Other criticisms levelled at the Government include allowing elderly people to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested, locking down too late in March 2020 and the failures of the multi-billion NHS test and trace.

Families of those who lost their loved ones to Covid campaigned for an independent inquiry into what happened.

Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was right that lessons are learned, announcing in May 2021 that an inquiry would be held.

Will Boris Johnson be quizzed? If so, when?

It’s not clear exactly when, or if, the former Prime Minister will be quizzed. No full list of witnesses has been published yet.

But given he was in charge of the Government for almost the entirety of the pandemic, his insights will prove central to understanding several aspects of the nation’s response.

If called forward as a witness, he would be hauled in front of the committee to give evidence.

What topics will the inquiry cover?

There are currently six broad topics, called modules, that will be considered by the inquiry.

Module 1 will examine the resilience and preparedness of the UK for a coronavirus pandemic.

Module 2 will examine decisions taken by Mr Johnson and his then team of ministers, as advised by the civil service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers, and relevant committees.

The decisions taken by those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be examined.

Module 3 will investigate the impact of Covid on healthcare systems, including on patients, hospitals and other healthcare workers and staff.

This will include the controversial use of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation notices during the pandemic.

Module 4 meanwhile will assess Covid vaccines and therapeutics. 

It will consider and make recommendations on a range of issues relating to the development of Covid vaccines and the implementation of the vaccine rollout programme in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Modules 5 and 6 will open later this year, investigating government procurement and the care sector. 

Who is in charge of the inquiry?

Baroness Heather Hallett is in the charge of the wide-reaching inquiry. And she’s no stranger to taking charge of high profile investigations.

The 72-year-old ex-Court of Appeal judge was entrusted by Mr Johnson with chairing the long-awaited public probe into the coronavirus crisis.

Her handling of the inquiry will be subject to ferocious scrutiny.

Until Baroness Hallett was asked to stand aside, she was acting as the coroner in the inquest of Dawn Sturgess, the 44-year-old British woman who died in July 2018 after coming into contact with the nerve agent Novichok.

She previously acted as the coroner for the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.

She also chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations, as well as the 2014 Hallett Review of the administrative scheme to deal with ‘on the runs’ in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Hallett, a married mother-of-two, was nominated for a life peerage in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s resignation honours.

How long will it take?

When he launched the terms of the inquiry in May 2021, Mr Johnson said he hoped it could be completed in a ‘reasonable timescale’.

But, realistically, it could take years.

It has no formal deadline but is due to hold hearings across the UK until at least 2025. 

Interim reports are scheduled to be published before public hearings conclude by summer 2026.

The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war began in 2009 but the final, damning document wasn’t released until 2016.

Meanwhile, the Bloody Sunday inquiry took about a decade.

Should a similar timescale be repeated for the Covid inquiry, it would take the sting out of any criticism of any Tory Government failings.

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