China’s first official confirmed coronavirus victim may have caught the deadly disease late last year, official government data shows.
According to the report seen by the South China Morning Post, the first patient to suffer from Covid-19 was recorded on November 17.
At least 266 people were seen by doctors with the virus in the country in 2019.
This was at a similar time to when whistle-blowing doctors in Wuhan were raising concerns.
Scientists have been trying to map the pattern of the early transmission of covid-19 before the pandemic took hold.
According to the government data, a 55 year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to have contracted covid-19 on November 17.
The report states that from that date on, one to five new cases were reported each day.
By December 15, the total number of infections stood at 27 – the first double-digit daily rise was reported on December 17.
By December 20, the total number of confirmed cases had reached 60.
On December 27, Zhang Jixian, a doctor from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, told China’s health authorities that the disease was caused by a new coronavirus.
By that date, more than 180 people had been infected, though doctors might not have been aware of all of them at the time.While the government records, seen by the South China Morning Post have not been released to the public, they provide valuable clues about how the disease spread in its early days, the paper reports and shows the speed of its transmission.
It reports that scientists are now keen to identify the so-called “patient zero”, which could help them to trace the source of the coronavirus, which is generally thought to have jumped to humans from a wild animal, possibly a bat.
Of the first nine cases to be reported in November – four men and five women – none has been confirmed as being “patient zero”.
They were all aged between 39 and 79, but it is unknown how many were residents of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei and the epicentre of the outbreak.
According to the World Health Organisation, the first confirmed covid-19 case in China was on December 8, but the global body does not track the disease itself but relies on nations to provide the information.
Dr Ai Fen, the first known whistle-blower, has since gone missing.