Satellite data suggests China had Covid months before officials admit

china satellite

Researchers think China may have been fighting coronavirus months before it told the world
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A sharp rise in traffic at major hospitals in Wuhan last autumn suggests coronavirus may have been spreading well before Chinese officials let on, according to a new study.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School also found a rise in searches related to Covid symptoms on China’s equivalent to Google at the same time.

Dr John Brownstein, the epidemiologist and professor who led the team, admitted the evidence was circumstantial but said it could be a key data point in unravelling the mystery of the pandemic’s origins.

Dr Brownstein told ABC News this week: ‘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.’

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Satellite imagery showed ‘a dramatic increase in hospital traffic outside five major Wuhan hospitals beginning late summer and early fall 2019,’ he explained.

‘Parking lots will get full as a hospital gets busy. So the more cars in a hospital, the hospital’s busier, likely because something’s happening in the community, an infection is growing and people have to see a doctor.

‘So you see the increases in the hospital business through the cars … We saw this across multiple institutions.’

hospital map

Hubei Women and Children Hospital saw a nearly twofold increase in carpark usage at similar times of day (Picture: RS METRICS)

The team also tracked internet searches for ‘certain symptoms that would later be determined as closely associated with the novel coronavirus.’

They wrote: ‘While queries of the respiratory symptom “cough” show seasonal fluctuations coinciding with yearly influenza seasons, “diarrhoea” is a more COVID-19-specific symptom and only shows an association with the current epidemic.

‘The increase of both signals precede the documented start of the COVID-19 pandemic in December.’

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has declared the study ‘full of deficiencies’ and ‘grossly fabricated’ as part of an American plot to ‘create and deliberately disseminate disinformation against China’.

A spokesperson for the ministry had earlier dismissed the study as ‘ridiculous’ and based on ‘superficial’ data, while admitting to not having seen it.

TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 11, 2020 shows university graduates having their blood samples taken amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, before entering campus to receive their graduation certificates at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

China has rolled out large-scale testing and has put areas under lockdown to try and avoid second waves of infections (Picture: .)

The findings come two weeks after the director of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the Wuhan seafood market where many early cases were traced to is more likely to have been a ‘victim’ of the virus than its origin, as previously believed.

Gao Fu, who also sits on China’s rubber-stamp parliament, said: ‘At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim. The novel coronavirus had existed long before.’

He said no virus traces were detected in animal samples collected from the market in January, only in environmental samples including sewage.

The Chinese government has repeatedly dismissed foreign academic studies which challenge the state’s narrative on Covid as part of a Washington-led plot.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on May 19 that China supports a review of the global response to Covid-19 after the pandemic is brought under control as long as it is led by the WHO and conducted in an ‘objective and impartial’ manner.

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