Planet Normal: Dismissing Wuhan lab leak theory was a ‘shocking episode in the history of science’

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Matt Ridley is the latest guest on The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, featuring news and views from beyond the bubble
Matt Ridley is the latest guest on The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, featuring news and views from beyond the bubble

When Matt Ridley started writing his new book on the origins of the Coronavirus pandemic, he and his co-author, Canadian molecular biologist Dr Alina Chan, felt the possibility that the virus was an engineered escapee of the Wuhan Institute of Virology was unlikely. But both their views have changed. “I thought I’d probably be able to dismiss it after a couple of months’ work,” he tells Telegraph columnists Liam Halligan and Allison Pearson on their weekly podcast, Planet Normal, which you can listen to using the audio player above.

While he doesn’t feel he can discount the possibility of natural origins entirely, Ridley now believes the lab leak theory to be “likely”.

“There is a very good case that it might have come from a laboratory, and until we can rule that out, it’s very important we take that very seriously and don’t try and dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, as a lot of senior virologists tried to do right at the start.” That was, according to the writer, “a rather shocking episode in the history of science.”

Ridley, who has a Ph.D. in zoology from Oxford University, is clear on what the legacy of botched attempts to control the virus should be: “The ultimate result of this pandemic must be that the world agrees to share information more rapidly and more fully and more freely, and one way to do that is for Western countries to come together and sign a pandemic treaty, committing to total transparency when these things happen and eventually shaming countries that won’t sign up, perhaps even sanctioning them.”

And would China be among those names? “If China has nothing to hide here,” Ridley tells the podcast, “they should be absolutely happy to sign up to such a treaty.”

Listen to Matt Ridley's full interview on Planet Normal, a weekly Telegraph podcast featuring news and views from beyond the bubble, using the audio player above or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your preferred podcast app.

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