The official story from China is that COVID-19 emerged at the end of December, in 2019.
But now there’s more evidence that may point to the virus being around months before then.
Purchases of PCR tests in China’s Hubei Province surged months before the first official reports of a novel coronavirus case there, according to a report by Australian cybersecurity company Internet 2.0. The tests are used to test for COVID, although they do have other uses. But the huge uptick indicates they likely knew was spreading. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei Province.
Orders doubled from universities, jumped fivefold from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and surged tenfold from animal testing bureaus. Purchases from hospitals declined by more than 10%.
Monthly procurement data shows a spike in orders in May, especially from CDC buyers and the People’s Liberation Army.
“We believe the increased spending in May suggests this as the earliest start date for possible infection,” the report said.
Purchases rose sharply from July through October as well, in particular from the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The institution spent 8.92 million yuan on PCR tests in 2019, about eight times its total for the previous year.
The university, along with local hospitals and public health authorities, plays a direct role in responding to outbreaks of new diseases, according to the report.
The involvement of these groups provides evidence that “the increase of purchasing was most likely linked to the emergence of COVID-19 in Hubei Province in 2019,” the report said. “We assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the [World Health Organization] about COVID-19.”
Professor Akira Igata of Tama Graduate School of Business who independently analyzed the data said it was “strong information making the case there was an awareness of a virus outbreak.”
This throws into further doubt the official Chinese version of events. China is objecting to the findings, not surprisingly.
Of course, this is consistent with the fact that China hasn’t been transparent from the very beginning. What’s perhaps surprising is that it’s possibly even earlier than had previously suggested by other reports — not just in the fall, but potentially even in the spring, if this is accurate. Our Scott Hounsell has been doing a terrific job reporting on the questions about the origin of the virus and this only adds to those questions that we have been raising.