Where Did Covid Come From?
On 8th December we invited journalist and best-selling author Matt Ridley to address a virtual audience in our second Winter Talk of the season, Where Did Covid Come From?
Matt has written for The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and The Times on wide-ranging topics such as science and the environment, society, and economics. In his latest book, Viral: The Search for the Origins of Covid-19 (co-written with Alina Chan, a microbiologist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard), he presents new and crucial evidence on our current predicament. As he put it to us, the question of where and how the virus originated is far from a purely academic matter: given that, worldwide, 15 million are thought to have died of Covid, ‘we owe it to them to find out how that happened; and we owe it to them to prevent the next pandemic starting.’
And yet, Matt cautioned, ‘the lack of transparency on this vital point is not confined to China, but is happening in the West too’. His research reveals startling gaps in the narrative of how the virus spread from a market in Wuhan to the rest of the globe. There remain urgent questions to be asked of the WHO, which ‘has hardly covered itself in glory’, as well as of the various Chinese authorities who appear to have ‘deliberately obscured’ vital evidence of a possible laboratory origin for the virus: ‘It’s still an open question, as to how this happened. Both the market theory and the laboratory theory are still viable, but we do need to dig further.’
With Rennie Hoare and Alexander Hoare moderating questions from the audience, our customary post-talk discussion did indeed dig further, ranging from the lessons that pre-vaccine pandemics might teach us, to the many, as yet unanswered, questions about the conflict/merging of interests in the West and China. ‘We’ve got to be quite careful not to be just blaming here,’ said Matt as he called for greater cooperation between governments and organisations: ‘The more open you are, the more we’ll learn, and the more we’ll say ‘thank you’ rather than criticise.’
Views and opinions contained in this summary are the speaker’s own and are not necessarily those of the bank or any of its partners, directors, or employees.