The first case of a person suffering from the new coronavirus can be traced back to November 17 in the Chinese province of Hubei, according to government records leaked to media.
The date is more than seven weeks before Chinese officials announced they had identified a new virus and over two months before various cities in the region went into lockdown to contain the spread of the bug.
Beijing claims the first coronavirus patient fell ill on December 7.
The new coronavirus could be spreading silently among Hubei residents as early as November. Government reports obtained by South China Morning Post show the first case of a person suffering from the disease, known as COVID-19, can be traced back to November 17.
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The date is more than two months before various cities in the region went into lockdown to contain the spread of the bug. In the picture, large crowds of people queue to receive treatment at the fever outpatient department of Tongji Hospital in Wuhan on January 22
The picture taken on January 20 shows hazmat-donning medical staff transferring a coronavirus patient from an ambulance at the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan to receive treatment
Unpublished data show Chinese authorities have identified at least 266 people who were infected before December 31 – a time when Wuhan authorities were busy punishing a group of doctors for sounding the alarm of a ‘SARS-like’ disease.
The classified document, obtained by South China Morning Post, comes as coronavirus fears spread across Europe after cases in Italy, Spain and France spiked.
It also comes as China and the United State spar over the origin of the killer virus.
The contagion, officially known as COVID-19, has killed more than 4,900 people globally and escalated into a pandemic this week.WHO declares coronavirus a pandemicLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time1:22FullscreenNeed Text
SPAIN: Catalan police officers stop a car trying to get into Igualada, one of the four towns closed down by regional authorities, at a checkpoint near Barcelona this morning
POLAND: Medical staff arrive in an ambulance at a public hospital in Lublin in Poland, a country which yesterday recorded its first coronavirus death
ITALY: A sanitation worker sprays disinfectant over a set of stairs in Brescia in northern Italy, which is already under quarantine
A map showing the latest number of cases across Europe, with Italy by far the worst affected. The small dots represent small nations such as Vatican City, San Marino and Andorra
According to the report, a 55-year-old resident of Hubei could have been the first person to have contracted the infection on November 17.
However, no evidence shows that the individual is the ‘patient zero’, a term used to describe the first carrier of an infectious disease in an outbreak.
The report added that between one and five new cases were reported each day from that date onwards.
It is said the first double-digit daily toll occurred on December 17 and by the last day of 2019, the total number of infections had soared to 266 – before it spiked again by 115 on January 1.
But it wasn’t until January 7 that the Chinese authorities declared they had identified a new virus.Health officials start to disinfect Huanan Seafood Wholesales MarketLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PreviousPlaySkipMuteCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time1:01FullscreenNeed Text
In January, Chinese experts said tests had proved that humans caught the virus from animals sold as food at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market (pictured on March 4) in Wuhan
People wearing protective masks and suits carry rubbish bins during disinfection work at Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market on March 4. The market was shut on January 1 by officials
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on the day that the virus belonged to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold. It was named 2019-nCoV.
Before that, online warnings about the deadly disease, including posts from late whistle-blower doctor Li Wenliang, were branded as ‘rumour’ and ‘fake news’ by police of Wuhan.
In late January, Beijing’s experts said tests had proved that humans caught the virus from animals sold as food at the Huanan Seafood Wholesales Market in Wuhan.
Previously, the ‘patient zero’ of the coronavirus was believed to be a bed-bound Wuhan pensioner who had no connection to the food market.
The unnamed man in his 70s fell ill on December 1 and had not been to the seafood market before falling ill, a doctor told BBC.
The claim echoes a report written by a group of Chinese doctors and published on peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet. The study from late January reveals critical information that had never been released by the Chinese government.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (left) said the U.S. lacked transparency and accused American military members of bringing the coronavirus to Wuhan. It came after U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the speed of China’s reaction to the emergence of the coronavirus had probably cost the world two months when it could have been preparing for the outbreak
This chart shows how confirmed coronavirus cases have escalated in the U.S. since January
In signs of a new diplomatic spat, China and the United States have been blaming each other as the alleged origin of the killer infection.
A Beijing spokesperson yesterday claimed that the coronavirus might have been brought to Wuhan by the US military while US politicians called it the ‘Wuhan virus’ or ‘Chinese coronavirus’.
The spat comes as China tries to deflect blame for the contagion and reframe itself as a country that took decisive steps to buy the world time by placing huge swathes of its population under quarantine.
With cases falling in China and soaring abroad, Beijing is now rejecting the widely held assessment that the city of Wuhan is the birthplace of the outbreak.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian went a step further on Thursday, saying on Twitter that ‘it might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan’ – without providing any evidence.
He doubled down on his claim on Friday by posting a link to an article from a website known for publishing conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.
Censors usually vigilant against rumours have also allowed Chinese social media users to spread similar claims about the US being behind the virus.
China admitted the coronavirus originated in Wuhan in January
The push to question the origin of the disease contradicts China’s own initial assessment about the source of the virus, which has now killed nearly 5,000 people worldwide.
Gao Fu, head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in January ‘we now know the source of the virus is wild animals sold at the seafood market’ in Wuhan.
Chinese authorities themselves saw Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province as a threat as they placed the region of 56 million people under strict quarantine to contain the epidemic.
But Beijing began sowing doubts in late February, when Zhong Nanshan, a respected expert affiliated with the National Health Commission, told reporters ‘the epidemic first appeared in China, but didn’t necessarily originate in China’.
Scientists, however, have long suspected that the virus jumped from an animal at the Wuhan market to a human before spreading globally.
The World Health Organization has said that while the exact path the virus took between its animal source and humans is still unclear, COVID-19 was ‘unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019’.
Christl Donnelly, a professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, said genetic analysis of coronavirus samples collected from around the world showed a common ancestor in China.
A video showing a US health official saying some flu victims were posthumously diagnosed as having had COVID-19 was among the top searched items on China’s Twitter-like Weibo this week, with some users saying it was evidence the virus originated in the US.
Zhao posted the clip on Twitter.
Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said he believed Zhao was ‘tweeting in his official capacity’.
China’s intention in promoting the conspiracy theory is ‘to divert from domestic discontent’ over the handling of the outbreak, which has killed more than 3,170 people in the country.
Asked if Zhao was representing the government’s view, fellow foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday that ‘the international community, including (people) in the United States, have different views on the source of the virus’.
‘China from the beginning thinks this is a scientific issue, and that we need to listen to scientific and professional advice,’ Geng said.
The United States, meanwhile, has angered China by using language directly linking the virus to the country.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called it the ‘Wuhan virus’, prompting Beijing to reject the term as ‘despicable’ and ‘disrespecting science’.
While Kevin McCarthy, a US congressman, called the virus the ‘Chinese coronavirus’ on Twitter.
In a tweet on Monday, he wrote: ‘Everything you need to know about the Chinese coronavirus can be found on one, regularly-updated website.’ He was sharing the link to the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
US President Donald Trump started a televised address to his nation on Wednesday by speaking about the outbreak ‘that started in China’.
The language is ‘part of his dog-whistling politics’, said Australian National University researcher Yun Jiang.
The WHO warns against naming infectious diseases in a way that encourages discrimination against ethnic groups.
Robert O’Brien, the US national security adviser, on Wednesday insisted that the virus originated in Wuhan.
Blaming the pandemic on a lack of cooperation from Chinese officials and a cover-up when the outbreak first emerged, O’Brien said this had ‘cost the world community two months to respond’ to the threat.
Beijing called his remarks ‘extremely immoral and also irresponsible’.
Jiang said that ‘by sowing doubts into people’s mind about where the virus originated, they’re trying to deflect part of the blame for the outbreak’.
Source: Daily Mail
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