US scientists report earliest known COVID-19 case a solid proof; next stage should be focused especially on the US: Chinese epidemiologist
Next stage virus tracing should be focused on the US: epidemiologist
Published: Jun 16, 2021 10:21 PM
A recent US CDC report found #COVID19 antibodies in blood samples as early as Dec 13, 2019. With more & more evidence surfacing about the coronavirus' origins in places outside China before Wuhan detected it, the world is remapping the history of the #COVID19 pandemic. Infographic:GT

A recent US CDC report found #COVID19 antibodies in blood samples as early as Dec 13, 2019. With more & more evidence surfacing about the coronavirus' origins in places outside China before Wuhan detected it, the world is remapping the history of the #COVID19 pandemic. Infographic:GT

More scientific evidence in countries such as the US and France has emerged to suggest that those countries may have had COVID-19 cases way before they officially confirmed.

A US government study suggested that the coronavirus may have already been circulating among people one month earlier than it was officially confirmed, and French scientists also presented scientific evidence that the country's cases were caused by an indigenous virus strain prevailing before 2020. 

Chinese scientists urged that such evidence should not go unnoticed, and should serve as evidence that the next-stage virus-tracing investigations should be focused on countries which reported cases earlier than they previously identified, especially the US.

A study of more than 24,000 samples taken for a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research program in the US between January 2 and March 18, 2020 suggested that seven people in five states - Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - may have been infected well before the country's first confirmed cases that were reported in January 21, 2020. 

The results suggest that the virus may have been circulating in Illinois, for example, as early as in December 24, 2019, one month earlier than the US authorities confirmed. 

The data suggests the virus was in the five states far away from the initial hot spots and areas that were considered its points of entry into the country, the study said.

Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Global Times on Wednesday that the US should be prioritized in the next-stage investigation, as the country was slow to test people at an early stage, and it possesses so many biological laboratories all around the world. "All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny," Zeng said.

Ju Liya, chief scientist of the European precision medicine platform in France, also told the media last week that after having studied the genetic sequence of the viruses from earlier patients, they found the outbreak in France was caused by an indigenous virus, which was prevailing in the country even before 2020. 

She also claimed that the France outbreak had no link with the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first coronavirus case was reported, as the hereditary feature of the virus strain detected in France is very different from that found in COVID-19 patients in China. 

In response to a question about the US study, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a Wednesday briefing that scientific journals and scientists around the world have pointed out similar evidence, including chief Swedish epidemiologists who believe that there were cases of coronavirus in Sweden as far back as November.

"It is obvious that the outbreak had multiple origins," said Zhao.

The spokesperson said under this perspective, next-stage virus-tracing investigations should be focused on various countries and regions, instead of just one. He also urged other countries to cooperate with WHO on virus tracing, like what China did with the organization.  

The WHO and some of its scientists confirmed to the Global Times previously that the agency is working with researchers in Italy and a reference laboratory to retest the samples of a study that suggested the coronavirus may have been circulating in Italy since fall 2019.

Only China, which upholds the principles of science and justice, had invited the WHO to investigate the virus origins, Zeng noted. He also urged other countries to trace back samples of their previous pneumonia patients, as early as in 2018, to check if there were earlier cases of COVID-19. 

Aside from pointing directions for next-stage virus tracing, scientists also called Western politicians and media to stop politicalizing the issue, as their deeds are stifling genuine scientific research into the virus origins.

US President Joe Biden in late May ordered US intelligence agencies to report to him in the next three months on whether the COVID-19 virus was come from an animal source or from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Ju said that after she published her paper disproving the connection between France's outbreak and Wuhan, the French government and politicians were angry with her institute. Her institute, which has prominent achievements in virus research and vaccine development, was silenced. 

Western politicians' playing with the "lab-leak" theory or jab at China for being responsible are just tricks to get themselves away from their mishandling of the pandemic, a Beijing-based immunologist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday, noting that their politicalizing the issue is standing in the way of scientists to find answers to the pandemic.