MOSCOW, 11 Feb – RIA Novosti. Experts from the World Health Organization admit the likelihood that COVID-19 could begin to spread in China before December 2019, when the outbreak was officially announced, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing experts.
According to experts, about 90 people in October 2019 were hospitalized in central China with symptoms similar to those that occur with COVID-19.
The Chinese authorities reportedly performed antibody tests on about two-thirds of these patients, but said they found no traces of coronavirus infection. WHO experts who visited China believe that in this case, the content of antibodies could have decreased to levels that cannot be detected. “Further research is needed,” said Peter Ben Embarek, head of the WHO international expert group.
As the publication notes, a group of WHO experts urged the Chinese authorities to conduct broader analyzes of blood samples collected in the fall of 2019 in Hubei province to find evidence when the coronavirus first began circulating.
Earlier, Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response committee of the State Committee on Health of the People's Republic of China, said that there was no sufficient evidence of the spread of COVID-19 in Wuhan until December 2019.
An international group of WHO experts has been in China for almost a month since January 14 and conducted joint research with Chinese experts in the field of identifying the origin of COVID-19. WHO experts managed to visit the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including the highly isolated BSL-4 laboratory, which was associated with rumors of an alleged “leak” of the virus or the possible artificial origin of COVID-19, a hospital, the Huanan seafood market, and a center for disease control and prevention.
On Tuesday, experts held a press conference summing up the results of the work in Wuhan. It is currently unknown what role the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan played in the spread of the virus, they said, and they also called it unlikely that COVID-19 from bats would enter the market directly, suggesting that it was probably an intermediate carrier of the virus. WHO experts intend to study this hypothesis in the future. At the same time, they said that transmission of the virus to humans due to a laboratory leak is unlikely.