Authorities have identified at least 266 people who were infected before the end of 2019, according to data seen by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post. Whistleblower revelations suggest Chinese doctors only realised they were dealing with a new virus in late December. A 55 year old man from Hubei Province, where the city of Wuhan is located, could have been the first person to come down with the disease.
The records have not been disclosed to the public.
By identifying “patient zero”, scientists might find it easier to work out the source of coronavirus, which is believed to be a wild animal, possibly a bat.
Nine cases were reported in November, four men and five women aged between 39 and 79, but none have been confirmed as patient zero, nor is it clear how many were residents of Wuhan.
South China Morning Post has acknowledged it is possible there are cases dating back earlier.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) first confirmed COVID-19 case was December 8, but the WHO relies on nations to provide information.
The virus has since spread globally.
This week, several counties in Africa such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea and Mauritania reported their first cases.
The UK has reported 11 deaths so far.
The outbreak has caused the banning of mass gatherings throughout Europe.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi and Juventus defender Daniele Rugani have tested positive.
Actor Tom Hanks and his actress wife Rita Wilson tested positive in Australia.
Nadine Dorries, the Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety Under-Secretary has tested positive.
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On Friday, she announced her 84 year old mother had also tested positive.
She tweeted: “We have had my 84yo Mums results through.
“She tested positive.
“She’s a pre war baby, doing ok.”
“Made of strong stuff”, she added.
The Mid Bedfordshire MP is self isolating at home.
A newly born baby in London has also tested positive.
Doctors are still trying to ascertain if the virus was contracted during birth or whilst in the womb.
The mother has tested positive but is at a different hospital to her child.
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