Dominic Raab has said there is “no doubt” it will not be “business as usual” with China once the coronavirus crisis is over.
The foreign secretary, who is deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from contracting COVID-19, said there needs to be a “deep dive” review into how the virus was able to spread from China.
He added that “hard questions” need to be asked about how the coronavirus came about and how its spread was not halted earlier.
“I think there absolutely needs to be a very, very deep dive after the event review of the lessons – including of the outbreak of the virus – and I don’t think we can flinch from that at all, it needs to be driven by the science,” Mr Raab told the government’s daily COVID-19 news conference.
His remarks came as Sky News learnt the UK is investigating the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, including a possibility it could be linked to a Chinese laboratory conducting research into diseases in bats.
Mr Raab said the UK and China had good cooperation when it comes to the procurement of equipment and the return of UK nationals, adding that the review would need to be carried out in a “balanced way”.
However, he went on to say: “But there is no doubt we can’t have business as usual after this crisis, and we will have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier.”
The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the beginning of the year, but soon spread around the world.
Globally, more than 100,000 people have died after contracting COVID-19.
MPs have been critical of China’s response in recent weeks.
The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee warned recently that disinformation propagated by Beijing and other countries was costing lives and hindering the battle against COVID-19.
As the country where the outbreak originated, China should have played a central role in collecting data on its spread, MPs on the committee said.
Instead they said China had, from the outset, tried to “obfuscate” over what was really happening.
It called on the British government, in conjunction with international allies, to actively “confront and rebut” disinformation from foreign powers.
The MPs also named Iran and Russia as being behind false information about the coronavirus and suggested other nations might be involved.
But their ire was mainly focused on China.
The committee highlighted the way Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who first raised the alarm about COVID-19, was forced to confess to “making false comments” before he died from the virus in February.
Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said Beijing had at first “allowed disinformation to spread as quickly as the virus”.
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