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Coronavirus

China slams Harvard coronavirus beginning claim as "ridiculous"

A study by Harvard Medical School has suggested that the Covid-19 outbreak was already in progress as early as August 2019, but this has been refuted.

Update:
WUHAN, CHINA - JUNE 03: (CHINA OUT) Residents visit a night market in Baocheng Road on June 3, 2020 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Wuhan has seen its urban life gradually get back to normal following encouragement from local city management to open up s
StringerGetty Images

Much of the world has been battling against the novel coronavirus through 2020. It could be, however, that Covid-19 may have been spreading in China as early as August 2019, according to Harvard Medical School research based on satellite images of hospital travel patterns and search engine data.

Covid-19's early beginnings

The research used high-resolution satellite imagery of hospital parking lots in Wuhan - where the disease emerged in late 2019 - and data for symptom-related queries on search engines for things such as "cough" and "diarrhoea".

"Increased hospital traffic and symptom search data in Wuhan preceded the documented start of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in December 2019," according to the research.

"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."

Full details of the research is available to be viewed.

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"These findings also corroborate the hypothesis that the virus emerged naturally in southern China and was potentially already circulating at the time of the Wuhan cluster," according to the research.

It showed a steep increase in hospital parking lot occupancy in August 2019.

"In August, we identify a unique increase in searches for diarrhoea which was neither seen in previous flu seasons or mirrored in the cough search data," according to the research.

Harvard findings “ridiculous” says China

Hua Chunying, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, was asked about the research at a daily press briefing on Tuesday and was quick to dismiss the findings.

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

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