The protective measures were announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his four-point “living with Covid” plan. Mr Johnson said the UK Biosecurity Strategy would be updated to shield the country from an accidental release of natural spillage. It follows a report from the House of Lords Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Committee, which warned that labs around the world are capable of creating a biohazard that could create another pandemic.
Mr Johnson said: “We are refreshing our biosecurity strategy to protect the UK against natural zoonosis and accidental laboratory leaks, as well as the potential for biological threats emanating from state and non-state actors.”
It comes after experts claimed they had made a breakthrough in the search for he origins of COVID-19 after an early version of the virus was detected in lab samples.
The discovery could boost the theory that coronavirus was originally leaked from a lab. The samples were found in soil and came from a Chinese biotechnology firm.
They had been sent to the Sangon Biotech in Shanghai to be sequenced back in December 2019.
It is thought they had been contaminated with a previously unknown variant of the virus.
Scientists from the University of Veterinary Medicine and Lorand University in Hungary stumbled upon the discovery by chance when analysing genetic soil sample data from Antarctica.
The samples were also found to have DNA from hamsters and monkeys.
Some experts claim this suggests the early version of the virus was grown in a lab using animals or their cells.
Matt Ridley, author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, said: “The unique mutations hint at it being an ancestral variant.
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He added: “We will maintain our ability to respond to these risk including our world leading ONS survey, which will allow us to continue to track the virus in granular detail with regional and age breakdowns helping us to spot surges where and when they happen and our laboratory networks will help us understand the evolution of the virus and identify any changes in characteristics.
“We will prepare and maintain our abilities to ramp up testing. We will continue in other countries in developing their own surveillance capability because a new variant can emerge anywhere.
“Our aim will be to manage and respond to future risks through more routine public health intervention with pharmaceutical interventions as the first line of defence.”
“We have a population that is protected, we have the antivirals and the scientific understanding and we have the capability to respond rapidly.”