Wuhan lab staff treated by hospitals before Covid-19 declared - report

24 May 2021, 14:23

The World Health Organisation found it was "very unlikely" that Covid-19 originated from a lab
The World Health Organisation found it was "very unlikely" that Covid-19 originated from a lab. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care for “symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and common seasonal illness” a month before the first cases were reported.

The lab, which is used for the study of pathogens including coronaviruses, is located in Wuhan, where Covid-19 was first reported at the end of December 2019.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has said the revelation that lab staff sought care in November that year, which comes from a previously unpublished US intelligence report, “adds weight” to calls for an investigation into whether or not the virus originated in a laboratory.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, called the report “completely untrue”.

The WSJ reported that while the contents of the report are "significant" they are "in need of further investigation and additional corroboration".

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The idea that coronavirus was leaked from a laboratory is something that Chinese scientists and officials have consistently denied.

An investigation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020 found that human infection by an intermediate animal host was a “likely to very likely” origin for the virus.

It found that it was “extremely unlikely” that it had originated in a laboratory.

However, a group of scientists have recently criticised the WHO for failing to properly examine that possibility.

The letter, written by 18 scientists and published in the journal Science, came out before this latest revelation about the laboratory in Wuhan.

There have also been questions about the date on which the virus first appeared.

Whilst the first cases were officially reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, re-testing of a sample of a suspected pneumonia patient in France from December 27 2019 found that he had Covid-19.

The patient was unwell almost a month before Covid-19 was thought to have appeared in Europe and he had not travelled abroad in the weeks immediately preceding his illness, so it raised questions over both the timing and the location of the first emergence of the virus.

In April 2021 the director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement that the body would continue the search for the origins of Covid-19, saying it is “clear we need more research across a range of areas”.