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5 May 2020updated 06 Oct 2020 9:45am

WHO urges countries to investigate early Covid-19 infections after France traces case to December

By Samuel Horti

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to search through old health records for evidence of coronavirus, after it emerged that Covid-19 was present in France in December 2019, much earlier than previously thought.

China reported the first case of Covid-19 to the WHO on 31 December 2019, and the disease was thought to have reached Europe in the new year. However, doctors have confirmed a patient treated in a hospital near Paris on 27 December had the disease. The patient was swabbed at the time, and that swab has now tested positive for Covid-19.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a United Nations briefing in Geneva today that the finding “gives a whole new picture on everything”, and that retesting old swabs taken from patients would help us “better understand the potential virus circulation of Covid-19”. He urged countries to focus on pneumonia cases of unspecified origin from late 2019.

 

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