Fact Check: China’s Official Coronavirus Timeline Starts Out Weeks Too Late

Fact Check: China’s Official Coronavirus Timeline Starts Out Weeks Too Late

  • On Monday, April 6, China’s Xinhua News agency published the full text of the country’s official coronavirus response timeline.
  • In rolling out the chronology, the government claimed it had “unreservedly” shared every bit of information on COVID-19 with the international community “since the onset of the epidemic.”

The government’s COVID19 timeline begins with a claim that the first cases of “pneumonia of unknown cause” were detected in the city of Wuhan in “late December 2019.”

That is false.

Scientific reports have said the first cases of what turned out to be the novel coronavirus behind the disease COVID-19 were detected weeks earlier.

One study conducted by a group of China’s top scientists and dated Feb. 21 concluded that the “early population expansion of SARS-CoV-2” (the name for the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan) was detected on Dec. 8 or earlier.

The study stated: “The crowded (Huanan Wholesale Seafood) market (‘wet market’ in Wuhan) boosted SARS-CoV-2 rapid circulations in the market and spread it to the whole city in early December 2019.”

The study raised the prospect of human-to-human spread, although without specifying the means of transmission.

“Tracing back to the first identified COVID-19 patient on 1 December, SARS-CoV-2 has been circulated in humans for more than two months. However, it is still unclear whether the Hua Nan market was the birthplace of the virus, and how it has been transmitted and spread subsequently,” the team wrote.

The Chinese authorities on Dec. 31 had initially said there was no “obvious person-to-person transmission.” The World Health Organization raised the likelihood of human transmission three weeks later.