Chinese officials have long claimed the first case od COVID-19 was diagnosed in Wuhan on Dec. 1, blaming a nearby wet market that sells exotic animals as the cause.
Not so, says a bombshell new report by scientists from the University of Cambridge in Britain.
“While coronavirus was previously believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan at the end of last year, new research suggests it may have actually came from further south – and began spreading among humans as early as September 2019,” The Sun reported on Friday. The team of researchers published its report in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” which lays out a “network” of infections that calls into question reports from the communist nation.
“The virus may have mutated into its final ‘human-efficient’ form months ago, but stayed inside a bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other individuals,” University of Cambridge geneticist Peter Forster said on Thursday.
“Then, it started infecting and spreading among humans between September 13 and December 7, generating the network we present in [the journal] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS].”
Researchers analysed strains of the virus using a phylogenetic network – an algorithm that can map the global movement of organisms through the mutation of their genes.
While trying to pinpoint the exact location of patient zero – the first human case of coronavirus – early signs prompted them to look further south than the city of Wuhan, where infections were first reported in December.
“What we reconstruct in the network is the first significant spread among humans,” Mr Forster said.
The Sun says that Forster and his colleagues from various institutions analyzed more than 1,000 full genome sequences of the virus and by counting its mutations were able to get closer to pinpointing, when the first human was infected by a strain closest to a virus spread among bats.
Despite rumors that the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, Forster said: “If I am pressed for an answer, I would say the original spread started more likely in southern China than in Wuhan. “But proof can only come from analyzing more bats, possibly other potential host animals, and preserved tissue samples in Chinese hospitals stored between September and December.”
The UK report came the same day that Chinese officials dramatically increased the number of deaths. In the Hubei province, where Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million residents, is, China said there were just 1,290 deaths. But on Friday, Beijing raised Wuhan’s coronavirus death toll by nearly 50 percent after weeks of charges that communist party officials were underreporting the numbers.
Now, China is reporting 3,869 deaths. The number of confirmed cases was also raised dramatically, from 325 to 50,333. That number accounts for two-thirds of China’s total 82,367 announced cases.
“Chinese state media claimed Friday that the reason for the sudden leap was that medical facilities were overwhelmed during the peak of the outbreak and because of that, ‘belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,’” Fox News reported on Friday.