Based on the evidence provided by investigators into the origin of the 2019 novel coronavirus, it is implied that the outbreak started late last year. Others, on the other hand, suggest that it could have been earlier and might have been spread through silent infections which eventually mutated into what is observed today. However, a study submitted by Harvard Medical School suggests that it was even earlier than when Chinese health officials announced its first-ever recorded case of COVID-19.
Given the reluctance of the country's higher-ups to have international teams conduct investigations into the origin and cause of the pandemic, other means had to be considered. Hence, university researchers focused on satellite images taken around September 2019 of six major hospitals in Wuhan – the capital of Hubei province in China. It was indicated that there was "a dramatic increase" of parked vehicles outside these facilities.
Further analysis shows that a major increase in traffic to these hospitals was recorded in December. Around this time, there were already news of widespread infections from an unidentified virus that causes pneumonia in almost all of the patients. "Individual hospitals have days of high relative volume in both fall and winter 2019. However, between September and October 2019, five of the six hospitals show their highest relative daily volume of the analyzed series," according to the study as reported by the Independent.
In addition to the use of satellite imagery, the group likewise noted that there was a substantial increase in search terms related to COVID-19 symptoms. The data pulled from Chinese search engine Baidu yielded queries about diarrhoea, coughing, and more. Leading the Harvard team is Dr. John Brownstein, who also reveals that its findings haven't been peer-reviewed and is circumstantial.
"Something was happening in October," explained Brownstein. "Clearly, there was some level of social disruption taking place well before what was previously identified as the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic." in contrast, U.S. intelligence sources likewise notified the Pentagon that a respiratory disease was spreading in China around November. As it stands right now, there have been 406,000 confirmed deaths and more than seven million cases of COVID-19 globally.