News and Views
Boris Johnson blames China’s traditional medicine for Covid-19
China lashed out furiously at Boris Johnson today after the Prime Minister blamed its ‘demented’ traditional medicine for sparking the coronavirus pandemic – and backed a cause championed by his fiancee.
In an environmental speech to world leaders yesterday Mr Johnson tore into people who ‘grind up the scales of a pangolin’ in a bid to become more ‘potent’ – a thinly veiled attack on Chinese remedies.
Pangolins are also close to the heart of the Prime Minister’s environmentally-minded partner Carrie Symonds.
She has been vocal in her opposition to wet markets where they are sold, gaining praise from Peta as it announced her as one of its most influential activists of 2020.
Former Tory aides told MailOnline that Carrie was ‘definitely’ behind Mr Johnson’s conservation push, pointing out he rarely talked about such issues before they were linked.
Mr Johnson made the remarks in a virtual speech to the One Planet Summit, hosted by France’s President Macron, citing the illegal trade in the scaly anteater-like creatures.
They are widely used in Chinese medicine and their trafficking has been blamed for transmitting the virus from bats found in the wild to humans.
The first documented cases of the Covid-19 were in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with a wet market trading in exotic animals being seen as the probable source.
In comments that are likely to risk fury from Beijing, Mr Johnson said: ‘Obviously it’s right to focus on climate change, obviously it’s right to cut CO2 emissions, but we won’t achieve a real balance with our planet unless we protect nature as well.
‘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 I seem to remember in book one of the Iliad, 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.’
But China hit back at the PM after his comments. Today Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: ‘We’ve said many times that origin tracing is a scientific matter.
‘There is no room, no place, for people making speculations, hyping up – otherwise it will only disrupt international co-operation.’
Meanwhile Chinese web users labelled Boris Johson ‘laughable’ and ‘very ignorant’.
Mr Johnson’s attack on China was followed today by a broadside by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab over the treatment of the Uighur minority.