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First Covid-19 Case Could Have Emerged in China in October 2019, Reveals Study

China's first official Covid-19 case was reported in December 2019.

China's first official Covid-19 case was reported in December 2019.

The most likely date for the virus's emergence was November 17, 2019, and it had probably already spread globally by January 2020, the researchers estimated.

A new study has revealed that SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, emerged in China between early October and mid-November, two months before the first case was identified in Wuhan.

A report in Hindustan Times quoted a study by researchers of Britain’s University of Kent as stating that the results infer that SARS-CoV-2 emerged in China in early October to mid-November, and by January, had spread globally," a study by researchers of Britain’s University of Kent said.

Researchers used methods from conservation science to estimate that SARS-CoV-2 first appeared from early October to mid-November 2019, according to a paper published in the PLOS Pathogens journal.

The most likely date for the virus’s emergence was November 17, 2019, and it had probably already spread globally by January 2020, they estimated.

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China’s first official Covid-19 case was reported in December 2019 and was linked to Wuhan’s Huanan seafood market.

The origin of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a matter of intense debates — and speculations. There have been claims that the Sars-Cov-2 virus was leaked (accidentally or otherwise) from a lab in China’s Wuhan, the city where the first cases were reported. In the initial days of the pandemic, this suspicion was discarded by a large section of scientists as a conspiracy theory. It was also suspected that the virus spread from a seafood market in Wuhan that sold exotic animals, but no evidence to prove this theory had been found.

Scientists also suspected that the Sars-Cov-2 virus could be linked to bats and might have passed through another mammal before jumping on to humans. But the missing link has yet to be established. With no credible natural source, demands have grown in the West for a probe into the lab-leak theory. Meanwhile, China — which has faced criticism over its secretive approach — has accused the US of spreading disinformation.

A joint report by Chinese scientists and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which sent a team to Wuhan, did not draw any firm conclusion on the origin of Sars-Cov-2, though the experts said the chances of the virus leaking from a lab was “extremely unlikely”. The team said the virus could have jumped from bats via another animal. But later, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all theories remained on the table.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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first published:June 25, 2021, 10:49 IST