A Harvard Medical School research has suggested that the Coronavirus may have begun to spread in China as early as August last year.
The research is based on satellite images of hospital travel patterns and search engine data, Reuters reported.
China has termed the research ‘ridiculous’ and dismissed the findings.
According to the report, the research used satellite imagery of hospital parking lots in Wuhan 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 (in Wuhan).”
“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.
The satellite images showed a steep surge in hospital car park 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.
However, China has dismissed the findings of the research and termed it “incredibly ridiculous”.
“I think it is ridiculous, incredibly ridiculous, to come up with this conclusion based on superficial observations such as traffic volume,” the report quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying as saying.