What are they hiding? At the start of Covid many scientists believed it likely leaked from Wuhan lab – until a conference call with Patrick Vallance changed their minds. We asked for his emails about the call. This is what we got . . .

The Government has been condemned after refusing to release details of key email conversations involving leading scientists over the origins of Covid-19.

This newspaper used Freedom of Information rules to obtain a cache of 32 emails about a secretive teleconference between British and American health officials held early in the pandemic.

But officials blacked out almost every word before releasing the crucial documents.

Before this discussion, several of the world’s most influential experts believed the new virus most likely came from a laboratory – but days later, the scientists began dismissing such scenarios as ‘implausible’ and branding them conspiracy theories.

This newspaper used Freedom of Information rules to obtain a cache of 32 emails about a secretive teleconference between British and American health officials held early in the pandemic

The critical call is at the centre of concerns that the scientific establishment tried to stifle debate on the pandemic’s origins, as damning new evidence emerges of US ties to high-risk research on bat viruses in Wuhan, where the first cases emerged in late 2019.

The Mail on Sunday requested emails, minutes and notes on the call between Sir Patrick Vallance – Britain’s chief scientific adviser – and its organisers Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity, and Anthony Fauci, the US infectious diseases expert and presidential adviser.

Yet when the documents were released they had page after page redacted with thick lines of black ink by Whitehall officials. Even the names of experts copied in on discussions were blocked – and exchanges as trivial as one Edinburgh biologist’s ‘thank you’ for being invited – leaving only a few basic details about the call visible.

The lines left intact include a demand for the discussions, involving 13 participants around the world, to be conducted in ‘total confidence’, and an intriguing email line suggesting ‘we need to talk about the backbone too, not just the insert’.

That was possibly sent by Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, a member of the World Health Organisation team that produced a widely criticised report into Covid’s origins.

Such absurd state secrecy is highly contemptuous towards taxpayers and to a world that wants to know what caused this devastating pandemic to guard against similar catastrophes in the future.

The response was condemned by Tory MP and freedom of information campaigner David Davis.

‘This is a matter of massive public and global importance,’ he said. ‘It is hard to see why there should be such secrecy that it outweighs the immense public interest and requires them to redact this sort of important data.’

He is right. Such official obfuscation only serves to fuel concerns over a possible cover-up on Covid’s origins – and about Britain’s strange silence on issues of such global importance, which surprises some close international allies. I began attempting to obtain details of Government notes and discussions with key participants at the start of August, yet these derisory blacked-out pages are all I have winkled out of Whitehall so far.

A request for emails, notes or transcripts of Vallance’s conversations with Farrar on origins of Sars-CoV-2 (the strain of coronavirus that causes Covid-19), Wuhan Institute of Virology or Shi Zhengli, its infamous ‘Batwoman’ expert, was rejected on cost grounds.

The Government confirmed, however, that ‘we hold the information that you have requested’.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10052689/Government-condemned-refusing-release-details-key-email-conversations-Covid-origins.html