Purchases of viral tests that can be used to detect COVID-19 infection spiked in the Wuhan area months before China first confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a report from an Australian cybersecurity firm. The report suggests China may have known about the spread of the coronavirus long before it was officially acknowledged.
The firm, Internet 2.0, studied data on public contracts in China to track the purchase of PCR tests, which are used to analyze DNA samples and have been the most commonly used test for COVID infection during the pandemic. According to the financial newspaper Nikkei, the report found that purchases of PCR tests in Wuhan's Hubei province surged starting in May 2019. The first cases of the virus were reported in Wuhan in late December of that year.
Spending on PCR tests in Hubei nearly doubled in 2019 from the previous year, the firm's analysis found. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention's orders for the tests increased fivefold, and orders from animal testing bureaus increased tenfold. The People's Liberation Army also ordered large procurements of the tests.
"The increase of purchasing was most likely linked to the emergence of COVID-19 in Hubei Province in 2019," the report said. "We assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the [World Health Organization] about COVID-19."
China's foreign ministry pushed back against the report's findings. "China's anti-epidemic campaign is open to the world, the situation is clear, the facts are clear at a glance, and stand the test of time and history," a spokesperson for the ministry told Bloomberg.
Chinese regime mouthpieces have condemned allegations that China initially concealed what it knew about the spread of the coronavirus or that the disease may have emerged in a Wuhan laboratory. Chinese propagandists have fought back by pushing conspiracy theories about the coronavirus's origin, accusing the United States of engineering the virus at an Army base in Maryland.