Per Newsweek, the first confirmed case of someone suffering from COVID-19 in China can be traced back as far as November 17 last year, according to local reports.
The South China Morning Post reported it had seen government data showing that a 55-year-old from Hubei may have had the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus on November 17, but did not make the data public.
The newspaper also said that it was possible there were cases reported before the November date set out in the government data, adding that Chinese officials had identified 266 cases of COVID-19 last year.
Meanwhile, at least one Chinese official has been trying to point fingers at the United States.
NBC reports Chinese officials have sidestepped questions about whether Beijing blames Washington for the coronavirus outbreak after a foreign ministry spokesman suggested it could have been planted by the U.S. Army.
“When did patient zero begin in U.S.? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Zhao Lijian tweeted in both Chinese and English on Thursday. “Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!”
His post was accompanied by a video of Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying that some Americans who had seemingly died from influenza later tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Zhao, who was based at the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan before moving to the foreign ministry in February, is a prolific social media user; a hashtag referring to his posts was trending on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Friday with more than 89,000 mentions. He is known for being outspoken and for his sometimes outrageous comments.
2/2 CDC was caught on the spot. When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation! pic.twitter.com/vYNZRFPWo3
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
His post came shortly after his boss and the ministry’s top spokesperson Hua Chunying, retweeted the same video of Redfield, alongside a post which read: “It is absolutely WRONG and INAPPROPRIATE to call this the Chinese coronavirus.”
@CDCDirector Dr. Robert Redfield: Some cases that were previously diagnosed as Flu in the US were actually #COVID19. It is absolutely WRONG and INAPPROPRIATE to call this the Chinese coronavirus. https://t.co/Mk4RB7XYq0
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) March 12, 2020
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