Health World

Human virus transmission must be treated as weapon of mass destruction, says former UK foreign minister

LONDON – Former UK foreign minister Lord William Hague said that in the future, animal to human virus transmission must be treated as a weapon of mass destruction.

Just as the world monitors nuclear facilities and bans the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, it’s time for a new international order to inspect the biological threats that “pose the greatest danger to human health and the global economy,” he said.

“It has proven too easy for a virus from the other side of the world to travel here, to spread and to kill,” he said. “Our dependence on trade with China and others, whose notions of transparency and cooperation differ wildly from our own, has exposed us, our livelihoods and our economies.”

Former UK foreign minister Lord W. Hague said animal to human virus transmission must be treated as weapon of mass destruction. Click To Tweet

Hague spoke during the launch of a new report by think tank Policy Exchange that calls for “a new or strengthened co-ordinating body at the international level, ideally UN-based, to lead the monitoring, research and inspection of high-risk activities” that increase risks of zoonotic disease outbreaks.” The report also calls for trade sanctions against countries who disregard the rules.

Hague said China will resist the idea but they would come under enormous world pressure to accept the creation of an international pandemic unit run jointly by China and the U.S. and greater global cooperation on vaccines.

The WHO has sent two missions to Wuhan, China – where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported – and has been investigating the pandemic.

“There are alternative theories, but I have not seen a credible alternative theory that does not have it coming out of China somehow,” said Hague. “The world is hungry for the truth – on that we are on all on the same page.”

Hague said on social media China tried blaming others, but those efforts were exposed.

Australia and other countries have called for the World Health Organization (WHO) to investigate the origins of the pandemic and the 194 member countries will have a chance to discuss the issue when WHO meets this week for a regularly scheduled annual meeting.

“The whole world wants the scientific truth about this,” said Hague. “How ever that happens, we want that scientific consensus, including Chinese scientists, about where it arose and how it probably arose in terms of the wet markets in wuhan.”

On the second WHO Joint Mission, experts spoke with many, including senior scientists, provincial governors, municipal mayors and public health workers. They visited a wet market in Guangzhou, disease control agencies, hospitals and emergency supply warehouses.

But the Joint Mission only gave limited attention to the potential origins of the pandemic. They only noted that the novel coronavirus is a zoonotic virus and that bats appear to be the reservoir and said no intermediate hosts have been identified. Many scientists believe the coronavirus could have jumped to humans.

The Joint Mission’s report, however, concluded that to prevent a new pandemic there should be more efforts made to find the animal source, including the natural reservoir and any intermediate host.

The report commended activities by Chinese authorities to investigate the pandemic’s origins such as taking environmental samples from the Hunan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, getting records about the wildlife species sold at the market, and examining the early COVID-19 cases there.

But calls for an internal investigation on the pandemic’s origins are amplifying by world leaders. Australia was one of the first countries to use its seat on the executive board of the WHO to call for a WHO-led investigation.

The WHO hasn’t yet supported an investigation into the pandemic’s origins.

Elliot Alderson photo

Sarah Murphy/Alberta Press

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