Emergence of Coronavirus in China’s Wuhan Possibly Dates Back to Summer 2019

Patients infected with the novel coronavirus are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 5, 2020. The makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in China's epidemic-hit Wuhan city began accepting patients Wednesday. The hospital can provide about 1,600 beds to infected patients. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi)

The coronavirus causing COVID-19 was probably already ‘spreading virulently’ in the Chinese city of Wuhan as early as summer 2019, according to a study by the Internet 2.0 cybersecurity consulting company, which analyzed purchasing data of organizations dealing with disease control and prevention in the city.

“This study has no insights into the origins of COVID-19, however, we have come to the conclusion that based on the data analysed, it suggests the virus was highly likely to be spreading virulently in Wuhan, China as early as the summer of 2019, and definitely by the early Autumn,” the company said.

The study focused on contracts for the purchase of equipment for PCR laboratories in the Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is a capital. Related spending almost doubled in 2019 compared to the previous year, with a particularly significant increase detected in the summer of 2019.

The rise was due to purchases by organizations dealing with disease control and prevention, including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hubei, the Wuhan military hospital, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, the study said.

The increase in expenses in May marks the earliest date of the beginning of a possible COVID-19 infection, according to researchers.

Wuhan declared the world’s first coronavirus outbreak in late December 2019. The United States and several other countries have blamed the pandemic on the Chinese government, saying that the virus was leaked from a state lab in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Beijing has denied the allegation.

In March, the World Health Organization issued the first report of its fact-finding mission to China, which failed to determine the exact source of the virus, but concluded that transmission from bats to humans is the most probable scenario, while the theory of a leak from a state laboratory in Wuhan is very unlikely.

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