The World Health Organization has discovered that 92 people were hospitalized with Covid-19-like symptoms in October 2019 in the same province that contains Wuhan, two months before the Chinese government had previously acknowledged the disease was identified, The Wall Street Journal reports. Those 92 subjects either contracted pneumonia or other symptoms similar to COVID-19.
“China’s disclosures to the WHO raise questions about the possibility that Covid-19 — which has now killed more than 2.3 million people — was already spreading in China as far back as October 2019 and that earlier detection could have helped contain the outbreak before it became a global pandemic,” the Journal reported, adding, “During the WHO delegation’s visit, investigators said they received medical records from Chinese authorities related to about 92 cases of people from the 233 institutions canvassed by Chinese authorities across Hubei. All 92 had suffered from pneumonia or other Covid-19-like symptoms. Chinese authorities subjected those patients to antibody tests in recent months.”
Roughly one-third of the 92 people have died. Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO investigative team, said the rest tested negative in serology tests that look for antibodies.
“The numbers are not so important,” said Embarek. “What is important is that we don’t really know how reliable serology testing is to detect antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 more than a year after infection.” Microbiologist Fabian Leendertz, also a member of the WHO team, said finding antibodies after so much time had passed would be unlikely. Embarek would only allow, “Further studies are needed.”
Although the Chinese government said that no trace of infection left by COVID could be found when they examined the subjects in recent months, members of the WHO team said the antibodies formed after contracting the virus could have become undetectable levels as time had passed.
“Beijing has repeatedly sought to convey that it successfully managed an outbreak that began somewhere else,” the Journal noted. “On Wednesday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman repeated Beijing’s assertion that there were signs of the virus spreading in other countries, including the U.S., in the second half of 2019, and urged them to invite the WHO to investigate.”
The Business-Standard reported in May 2020:
Although the COVID-19 pandemic is known to have originated from Wuhan, China in December 2019, researchers tracking the origin of the virus, say that the novel coronavirus may have existed in a latent phase in the city since last October. According to the study on the evolution of the virus, published in the journal Frontiers in Medicine, infections may have followed a silent course during this early phase, spreading among the city’s population in a random way without showing epidemic signs. “An unidentified animal or animal parts contaminated by a virus initially originating from bats was brought into contact with humans in October November 2019, starting a latent infection,” the scientists wrote in the study.
The researchers added in their study:
What favored the epidemic and then the pandemic is the exceptional conjunction in Wuhan of several independent and aggravating events: (i) the occurrence of three major celebrations in a short time, for which the demand of food and natural products was exceptionally high in December 2019; (ii) the resulting movement and storage of large amounts of food including living animals in December 2019; (iii) the very high attendance of markets in December 2019, generating an amplification loop; (iv) very high human mobility for the holidays in January 2020; (v) intensive international mobility of goods and people in January and February 2020; (vi) a long period of silent incubation of SARS-CoV-2.