G7 leaders have renewed calls for a further investigation into the origin of the Covid pandemic amid questions over whether it leaked from a Chinese laboratory.
A joint report earlier this year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Chinese experts concluded that it was “extremely unlikely” that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the city at the centre of outbreak.
However, the investigation has faced criticism amid claims the WHO scientists were given only limited access when they visited China.
President Joe Biden has since ordered US intelligence agencies to redouble their efforts to probe the causes of the outbreak, as the “lab leak” theory has gathered strength in America.
China responded by accusing the US of “smear campaigns and blame shifting”, but the WHO has given its support to a “second phase” investigation.
At the news conference to mark the end of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Boris Johnson said that the best advice available to him remained that it jumped species from an animal.
However, he said that it was important to keep an open mind as to what exactly happened.
“At the moment, the advice that we have had is that it doesn’t look as though this particular disease of zoonotic origin came from a lab,” he said.
“Clearly anybody sensible would want to keep an open mind about that.”
At his closing news conference, Biden said that investigators needed access to laboratories in China to determine exactly what had happened.
“I have not reached a conclusion because our intelligence community is not certain yet whether or not this was a consequence of – from the marketplace – a bat interfacing with animals in the environment that caused this Covid-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory,” he said.
The final summit communique called for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened phase two Covid-19 origins study” including in China.
Speaking to reporters at the summit on Saturday, the head of the WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that after almost 3.75 million deaths worldwide, people deserved to know the source of the outbreak.
“We believe that all hypotheses should be open, and we need to proceed to the second phase to really know the origins,” he said.