A new study has suggested that the novel coronavirus pandemic could have hit the Chinese city of Wuhan as early as in late summer of 2019. This was the conclusion of the study that was conducted by Harvard and Boston University and was based on an analysis of satellite imagery and search engine trends.
The study looked at an uptick in hospital parking in Wuhan hospitals at the same time when there were trends on Baidu about a search for “diarrhea” – during the late summer last year, which was months before the currently known time of the first outbreak in Wuhan in December of 2019.
This report comes at a time when a China State Council Information Office report stated that “certain countries” ignored Beijing’s information about the virus and were now busy blaming China for the concealing outbreak.
Since the last month, the debate about the origins and timeline of the virus has gained pace.
The WHO and China agreed to allow an independent international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus was reached just three weeks ago. Further, a June 4 report from Associated Press suggested that China had delayed in sharing the genomic sequence of the novel coronavirus.
After an analysis of 111 satellite images from January 2018 to April 2020, the new research found “a steep increase in volume starting in August 2019 and culminating with a peak in December 2019.” Highest relative daily volume of traffic was shown by five out of six hospitals between September and October of last year. At about the same time as this development, he researchers also identified a peak of “cough” and “diarrhea” search queries on the Chinese search engine Baidu around December. “Diarrhea” shifted from a 400 relative search volume in 2018 to 600 in December 2019.
“There is a large decrease in hospital volume and search query data following the public health lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, 2019… Our evidence supports other recent work showing that emergence happened before identification at the Huanan Seafood market. These findings also corroborate the hypothesis that the virus emerged naturally in southern China and was potentially already circulating at the time of the Wuhan cluster,” the report said.
A new, detailed report of pandemic events was released by China’s State Council Information Office in Beijing on Sunday as the Chinese agency stated that “the baseless accusations that China concealed epidemic information and death figures is a calculated slur”.
“Since the early days of the outbreak China has informed the rest of the world of every development in clear and unambiguous terms. Certain countries ignored this information, and now blame China for their own failure to respond to the epidemic and protect their people’s lives,” said a portion of the report called “Firmly opposing stigmatisation and politicisation of the virus”.
(Adapted from TheIndianExpress.com)