A LEADING Tory MP says there's a "strong possibility" Covid-19 came from a lab in China.

Tom Tugendhat, a prominent critic of Beijing, also slammed the "culture of fear and silence" surrounding the origins of the virus.

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This comes as British spies are reportedly probing the lab leak theory along with US officials after Joe Biden ordered an investigation into the claims.

However, the Communist Party strongly denies any suggestion that Covid – which has killed millions worldwide – is man-made or emerged from a laboratory.

The lab at the centre of the claims – the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) – is the only facility in China which deals with bat coronaviruses.

Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the origins of the disease need to be investigated.

He told Sky News: "There are certainly strong suggestions of that and there is a strong possibility and it is at least an enquiry or route of enquiry that needs to be investigated.

"If you read the 2012 papers that list various forms of research that were being done in the Wuhan laboratory, then you can see certainly the gain of function areas that they were looking at raise the possibility that is something that may have happened.

"Now, I don't know whether it leaked from the Wuhan laboratory and my guess is that the Chinese authorities don't know if it leaked from the Wuhan laboratories because their culture of fear and silence is one that has left them blind, let alone us blind, to the causes."

What do we know about the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

THE Wuhan Institute of Virology is the highest security lab of its kind in all of China – and can be found right at the heart of the origins of the pandemic.

Various theories have been reported about the lab, which is headed up by scientist Dr Shi Zhengli, known as “Bat Woman”.

The lab specialises in bat-borne viruses and had been carrying out experiences on them since 2015.

Airlocks, full body suits, and chemical showers are required before entering and leaving the facility – the first in China to be accredited with biosafety level 4 (BSL-4).

BSL-4 labs are the only areas in the world where scientists are permitted to study diseases that have no cure.

Scientists from the lab even tested a mysterious virus which killed three miners 1,000 miles away in Yunnan province back in 2012.

It has been suggested this fatal bug may have been the true origin of Covid-19.

Experts at the lab also engineered a new type of hybrid 'super-virus' that can infect humans in 2015, according to journal Nature Medicine

The study was designed to show the risk of viruses carried by bats which could be transmitted to humans.

There is no suggestion the facility's 2015 work is linked to the pandemic and the facility denies the lab leak claims.

The lab was also recruiting new scientists to probe coronaviruses in bats just seven days before the outbreak.

The MP for Tonbridge and Malling, who was this year sanctioned by Beijing for spreading "lies and disinformation" about China, was a vocal critic of Chinese firm Huawei's involvement in the UK's 5G network.

Last August, he received a letter sent from Hong Kong containing a 'prayer' which he believes was an indirect threat from China.

Speaking to Sky News, Tugendhat blasted President Xi's regime and its "culture of fear."

He said: "The real problem here is that the Chinese Communist Party has developed such a culture of fear amongst its own people that people are afraid of telling the truth…

"…and there is a very strong possibility that we don't find out the truth because the Chinese government itself doesn't know the truth and will never find it out because they have so terrified their own scientists and researchers that they won't be able to tell them."

There is a growing suspicion that Covid-19 may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

British intelligence has also reportedly recently assessed the claim and upgraded its likeliness from "remote" to "feasible".

This week the former head of MI6 warned any evidence that the Covid pandemic was caused by a lab leak has probably been destroyed by China.

Sir Richard Dearlove believes the world may never be able to prove the theory if relevant data from the Wuhan Institute of Virology has disappeared.

The report alleges that China then reverse-engineered versions of the disease to make it seem like it was naturally sourced from bats.

Speaking to The Telegraph's Planet Normal podcast, he said western countries have been "naive" in their trust of China.

He added that scientists who wanted to speak out about "gain of function" experiments in the country have probably been "silenced".

Gain of function is research which alters a disease to make it more contagious.

Sir Richard said: "The People's Republic of China is a pretty terrifying regime and does some things we consider unacceptable and extreme in silencing opposition to the official line of the government.

"We don’t know that's what's happened, but a lot of data has probably been destroyed or made to disappear so it’s going to be difficult to prove definitely the case for a gain of function chimera being the cause of the pandemic."

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