New Delhi: While the world is grappling with the spread of the new coronavirus, designated SARS-CoV-2, government data in China has revealed that the first case of the virus can be traced to November 2019 – pulling the date of the virus’s first infection of a human back by nearly two weeks.
The South China Morning Post has reported based on government data that “the first case of someone in China suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be traced back to November 17,” and that “it is possible that there were reported cases dating back even earlier than those seen by the Post.”
While the World Health Organisation’s website states that the the first confirmed COVID-19 case in China was on December 8, the Post report pointed out that WHO “does not track the disease itself but relies on nations to provide such information.”
The news report stated that government data suggested a 55-year-old person was the first to have complained of the disease, in China’s Hubei Province. Then, from November 17, “one to five new cases were reported each day. By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 – the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17 – and by December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.”
“Interviews with whistleblowers from the medical community suggest Chinese doctors only realised they were dealing with a new disease in late December.”
Thus far, China has identified 266 persons who were infected by the virus in 2019 itself but scientists have not yet identified any among them as ‘patient zero’. Identifying the person to have first contracted the virus is crucial to mapping its journey, from a wild animal to humans.
“While government records have not been released to the public, they provide valuable clues about how the disease spread in its early days and the speed of its transmission, as well as how many confirmed cases Beijing has recorded,” the Post underlined.
Four men and five women comprised the first nine cases reported last November in Wuhan, but the new report highlighted that “none has been confirmed as being ‘patient zero'”. “They were all aged between 39 and 79, but it is unknown how many were residents of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the outbreak.”