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Source of Covid-19 Outbreak: Discussions with China

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2021

Whether he has had discussions with his Chinese counterpart on the source of the covid-19 outbreak. (901232)

In their call last month, the Foreign Secretary raised the response to the pandemic and global health reform with Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. The Health Secretary also discussed covid-19 with his Chinese counterpart at the UK-China health dialogue in December 2020. He underlined that a shared understanding of the virus’s origins, grounded in robust science, is vital to global pandemic preparedness.

The covid-19 pandemic has had huge implications for the global economy, for our constituents across this House and for billions of people around the world, so it is vital that we learn the lessons and do not brush anything under the carpet for fear of reprisal. With President Biden having asked US intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the pandemic, could the Minister reassure me and the House that we will be playing our full part in those efforts, and that we will be putting pressure on the Chinese Government to make sure that they behave in a much more transparent way than they have done to date?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this. As he will know, phase 1 of the WHO-convened covid-19 origins study was always meant to be the beginning of the process, not the end. We are working with our international partners to support the timely, transparent, evidence-based and expert-led phase 2 study, including, as recommended by the experts report, in China. World Health Organisation director general Tedros has said that “all hypotheses remain open”, and further data and studies are required. As such, we expect all WHO member states to live up to their responsibilities and co-operate with phase 2.