Covid row explodes as US disputes China’s claim on first case of virus

Boris Johnson issues warning about ‘blizzard’ of coronavirus

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Initially, it was believed the earliest case of the virus was in a 41-year-old male accountant who lived 20 miles away from the market. But now, Dr Michael Worobey from the University of Arizona believes the first confirmed infection was in a female seafood vendor.

Dr Worobey – who is the head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the university – claimed the World Health Organisation (WHO) misconstrued the early timeline of the pandemic.

On December 31, 2019, Beijing alerted the world to the first cases of the pandemic after local authorities warned the WHO over cases of “pneumonia of unknown causes”.

Chinese officials claimed the early cases were associated with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sells live animals.

However, as the pandemic swept across the world, there has been much debate over whether the virus originated in animals or was manufactured.

Dr Worobey examined early public records of the pandemic’s timeline, including articles in medical journals and interviews with a Chinese news outlet.

As several reports linked at least half of the earliest cases to the market, Dr Worobey concluded the pattern means that is where the virus originated.

However, the first known case from Xi Jinping’s secretive nation was believed to be a 41-year-old man who lived around 20 miles from the market.

Reports also suggest the man had no connection to the Wuhan market and did not come down with COVID-19 symptoms until December 16 despite feeling ill on December 8.

Dr Worobey claimed the early illness was linked to dental problems as the man had retained baby teeth into adulthood.

He wrote: “This indicates that he was infected through community transmission after the virus had begun spreading from Huanan Market.

“He believed that he may have been infected in a hospital (presumably during his dental emergency) or on the subway during his commute; he had also travelled north of Huanan Market shortly before his symptoms began.”

From his research, Dr Worobey concluded that the first known case was a seafood vendor named Wei Guixian, who developed symptoms on December 11.

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Experts backed his reconstructed timeline but said it did not explain how the pandemic began.

Dr W. Ian Lipkin, a virologist at Columbia University In New York, told the New York Times: “He has done an excellent job of reconstructing what he can from the available data, and it’s as reasonable a hypothesis as any.

“But I don’t think we’re ever going to know what’s going on, because it’s two years ago and it’s still murky.”

Former US President Donald Trump previously blamed the Communist nation for the outbreak.

He lashed out at the WHO for being “China-centric” and criticised their handling of the pandemic.

Mr Trump previously said: “The World Health Organisation has been a disaster.

“Everything they said was wrong and they’re China-centric.

“All they do is agree with China, whatever China wants to do.

“So our country, perhaps foolishly in retrospect has been paying $450million a year to the World Health Organisation and China’s been paying $38million a year but they were more political than all of our leaders previously.

“What they did, what World Health did, was they missed every single call and we’re not going to put up with it.”

Mr Trump, who was heavily criticised for the death toll in the US while president, condemned the Communist nation for not alerting global leaders of the severity of the virus.

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