China Denies Study Saying COVID-19 Hit Wuhan Earlier Than Claimed

The study was conducted by Harvard Medical School.

2 min read
Workers wearing protective suits check customers’ health QR codes at the entrance of a re-opened shopping mall in in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province.

A considerable increase in the number of cars parks outside Wuhan hospitals in October and September 2019 suggests that China was dealing with the spread of COVID-19, weeks earlier than previously admitted, according to a study by Harvard Medical School.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic was originally linked to a zoonotic spillover event in Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market in November or December of 2019. However, recent evidence suggests that the virus may have already been circulating at the time of the outbreak, ”read the abstracts of a study published by Harvard Medical School.

They said they used previously validated data streams like satellite imagery of hospital parking lots and Baidu search queries of disease-related terms, to investigate the possibility of a coverup.

"While we cannot confirm if the increased volume was directly related to the new virus, our evidence supports other recent work showing that emergence happened before identification at the Huanan Seafood market (in Wuhan)," read the research.

The Findings

Researchers studying 350 commercial satellite images have claimed that, compared to the same time in 2018, there were nearly double the number of vehicles parked outside the health centres, according to an ABC report on the study.

For example, Wuhan Tongji Medical University had 214 cars parked outside in September 2019, compared to just 112 cars in October 2018. Meanwhile, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University had 506 cars parked one day in October 2018 but 640 cars parked one day in October 2019.


The study also found that there was a spike in search for information on ‘cough’ and ‘diarrhoea’, on the Chinese search engine Baidu, around the same time. These two are known symptoms of COVID-19.

Dr John Brownstein, who led the study, told ABC News: "Something was happening in October. Clearly, there was some level of social disruption taking place well before what was previously identified as the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.”


‘It’s Ridiculous,’ says China

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked about the research at a daily press briefing on Tuesday, dismissed the findings.

“I think it is ridiculous, incredibly ridiculous, to come up with this conclusion based on superficial observations such as traffic volume,” she said.

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