According to several Chinese scientists who conducted a new study, the newly spread coronavirus did not have its origins at a seafood market in the city of Wuhan in central China as many experts initially surmised.
The South China Morning Post reported that this virus has produced a death toll of more than 2,400 people.
Instead, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was apparently imported from elsewhere, claimed researchers at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research.
Dr Yu Wenbin is the leader of the team who sequenced the genomic data of 93 SARS-CoV-2 samples that 12 countries provided in an effort to find the source of the infection and understand how it is spreading.
What they discovered was that although the virus spread rapidly within the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, there were also two significant population expansions on December 8 and January 6.
According to the study, which was released on the institute’s website last Thursday, the analysis indicated that the coronavirus originated from outside the market.
“The crowded market then boosted SARS-CoV-2 circulation and spread it to the whole city in early December 2019,” it contended.
Previous reports coming from Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organisation highlighted that the first known patient demonstrated symptoms on December 8, and that most of the cases that followed had ties to the seafood market, which shut its doors on January 1.
The research team then sustained that it was possible that the virus initially spread from person to person in early December or even as early as the end of November based on the genome data they were working with.
“The study concerning whether Huanan market is the only birthplace of SARS-CoV-2 is of great significance for finding its source and determining the intermediate host, so as to control the epidemic and prevent it from spreading again,” the research team noted.
The scientists also noted that although China’s National Centre for Disease Control and Prevention announced a Level 2 emergency warning about the rapidly spreading coronavirus on January 6, the information was not widely disseminated.
“If the warning had attracted more attention, the number of cases both nationally and globally in mid-to-late January would have been reduced,” they said.
In the meantime, Xiang Nijuan, a researcher at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Saturday January 22, 2020 that people who were infected with the coronavirus were contagious two days before showing any symptoms.
In his view, anyone who had been in close to someone within 48 hours of them being confirmed as being infected by the virus should isolate themselves for 14 days.