PCR Sales Soared in Wuhan Before 1st Official COVID-19 Cases Publicized: Report

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Spending on tests to detect the novel coronavirus soared in Wuhan, China, several months before the first official reporting of COVID-19 cases, suggesting the virus was already circulating in communities during the northern summer in 2019 before it was made public by Beijing, according to research by Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0.

The firm tracked the sales of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests over several years, revealing an almost 50 percent increase between 2018 to 2019—the year before the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the world.

Sales of PCR tests, used to detect specific viruses, totaled 19.1 million yuan (AU$4 million) in 2016, before rising to 29.1 million yuan (AU$6 million) in 2017, 36.7 million yuan in 2018, and 67.4 million yuan (AU$14 million) in 2019.

“These findings challenge existing assumptions around when the pandemic began and support further investigation. The study concludes that a significant increase in spending in PCR equipment correlates to the spread of COVID-19,” according to the report, Procuring for a Pandemic: An Assessment of Hubei Province (China) PCR Procurement Assessments.

“We assess with medium confidence the significant increase from 2018 to 2019 in Hubei province (67.4 million yuan of total PCR equipment in 2019) is due to an event like the emergence of COVID-19,” it continues.

“Finally, we assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the WHO about COVID-19.”

The study was carried out via an analysis of 1,716 procurement contracts from 2007 to the end of 2019.

It also identified a “notable, significant, and abnormal” amount of PCR equipment purchases in 2019 from Wuhan-based institutions such as the People’s Liberation Army Airborne Army Hospital (May 2019), The Wuhan Institute of Virology (November 2019), the Wuhan University of Science and Technology (October 2019), and the Hubei Province Districts Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (May–December 2019)

The first COVID-19 cases were officially reported on Dec. 31, 2019; however, questions have lingered as to the exact cause of the outbreak, with a highly publicized WHO-backed investigation yielding results that have since been challenged.

By Daniel Y. Teng

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