Boris Johnson blames onset of coronavirus pandemic on ‘demented’ Chinese medicine

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
Boris Johnson during his speech to the One Planet Summit in which he hit out at the 'demented' practice of using pangolin scales for medicine. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson during his speech to the One Planet Summit in which he hit out at the 'demented' practice of using pangolin scales for medicine. (AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has blamed the onset of the coronavirus pandemic on a “demented” form of traditional Chinese medicine.

In a speech to the One Planet Summit, the prime minister said the virus emerged due to an “imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world”.

He asserted it “originates from bats or pangolins”, before rounding on the “demented” tradition in China of using pangolin scales in medicine, a practice unproven to have any health benefits.

The exact origin of the virus has not actually been proven.

Here is what Johnson said at the summit on Monday:

“One final thought, don’t forget that the coronavirus pandemic was the product of an imbalance in man’s relationship with the natural world. Like the original plague which struck the Greeks… it is a zoonotic disease. It originates from bats or pangolins, from the demented belief that if you grind up the scales of a pangolin you will somehow become more potent or whatever it is people believe. It originates from this collision between mankind and the natural world and we’ve got to stop it.”

China dismissed the PM’s remarks on Tuesday, with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian quoted in Bloomberg as saying “there is no room, no place, for people making speculations”.

This photograph taken on September 14, 2020 shows a pangolin emerging from an underground tunnel at night at Save Vietnam's Wildlife, a group that runs a pangolin conservation program inside the Cuc Phuong National Park in northern province of Ninh Binh. - Life remains precarious for the world's most trafficked mammal despite the country's renewed vow to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade that many blame for the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) / To go with  Vietnam-conservation-wildlife-health-virus by Alice PHILIPSON (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)
Pangolin is one of the world's most-trafficked mammals. (AFP via Getty Images)

The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Scientists are still probing its exact origin, though it is thought to have come from a market selling animals in the city.

Research published in July last year suggested the virus has been circulating in bats for decades.

Watch: 2020: The year of the pandemic

World Health Organization scientists are set to visit China on Thursday as part of an investigation into the cause of the pandemic. It’s not known, however, if they will be visiting Wuhan.

China had previously been reluctant to sanction the visit, having controlled all domestic research into the origin of the pandemic.

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