KEY POINTS

  • The study is published on preprint server Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • The paper reviewed public data from 12 representative regions in the U.S.
  • China has previously rejected a WHO investigation into the virus' origin

The COVID-19 virus, which has killed more than four million people worldwide, may have begun spreading in the United States in September 2019, according to a study conducted by Chinese researchers.

In a new paper published on preprint server Chinese Academy of Sciences, a group of Chinese researchers said there was a 50% chance that the first COVID-19 case occurred in the U.S. between August and October 2019 and spread in the country in September of the same year. 

In the study, the researchers reviewed the public data on diagnoses, tests and deaths from 12 representative regions in the U.S. They studied the data from March 2020 to develop a formula that helped them find the probability of COVID-19 spreading in the country in 2019.

“The calculation results show that the Covid-19 epidemic has a high probability of beginning to spread in the US in September 2019,” the researchers said in the paper.

According to the researchers, Rhode Island was the "possible site of the earliest case on April 26, 2019, with "the latest being in Delaware in November 2019." 

A public health expert, whose identity was not revealed, slammed the analysis, noting that the researchers did not take into account data in the U.S. showing that many early COVID-19 cases in the country were imported from multiple sources in Europe and Asia. 

“It’s a poor quality analysis, I doubt it can be published in an international journal,” the health expert told the South China Morning Post. “Any analysis of test-positive rates should account for how testing is being done, and interpolation beyond the range of the observed data is always difficult.”

Beijing has repeatedly promoted disinformation campaigns claiming that the COVID-19 virus originated in the U.S. In August, Chinese propagandists alleged that the novel coronavirus was made and leaked from Fort Detrick, a military installation in Maryland.

Zha Lijian, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, recently shared a line from a rap song by nationalist group CD Rev suggesting that the facility, which houses biomedical labs researching viruses, had been the origin of the COVID-19.

However, Beijing has not allowed World Health Organization (WHO) investigators to conduct further studies into the origin of COVID-19 in Wuhan, the city where the first outbreak was recorded. The Chinese government urged WHO to focus its investigations on other countries instead, according to BBC.

Delivering vaccines to Myanmar's junta, but also to rebel groups that are its sworn enemies, China is playing a subtle double game Delivering vaccines to Myanmar's junta, but also to rebel groups that are its sworn enemies, China is playing a subtle double game Photo: AFP / STR