A former head of MI6 believes the Covid-19 pandemic "started as an accident" when the virus escaped from a Chinese lab.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Sir Richard Dearlove said he had seen an "important" new scientific report which suggests that the virus did not emerge naturally.
"I do think that this started as an accident," Sir Richard said.
"It raises the issue, if China ever were to admit responsibility, does it pay reparations? I think it will make every country in the world rethink how it treats its relationship with China and how the international community behaves towards the Chinese leadership."
Sir Richard cited new research produced by Professor Angus Dalgleish, of St George's Hospital at the University of London, and the Norwegian virologist Birger Sorensen.
In their paper, they claim to have identified "inserted sections placed on the SARS-CoV-2 Spike surface".
"The SARS-CoV-2 spike is significantly different from any other Sars that we have studied," the paper says.
Sir Richard described the study as "a very important contribution to a debate which is now starting about how the virus evolved and how it got out and broke out as a pandemic", adding: "I think this particular article is very important, and I think it will shift the debate."