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Covid-19: How it started and started to spread

Covid-19: How it started and started to spread

It has almost been close to a year Covid-19 has spread its tentacles and is spreading unabated. The vaccines are in still in the trial stages. This article attempts to piece together chronologically from news reports, how, when and where was the virus first detected and started to spread.

The first officially reported case of Covid-19 dates back to 17th November, 2019. According to early reports from newspapers, the first person to have contracted Covid 19 is a 55 years old individual from Hubei province in China. From then on the patients with similar symptoms began to increase day by day. Wuhan, the epicenter of Covid 19, is located in Hubei province. And, the world class research institute on virology and China's first biosafety level IV lab - Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory - is based out of Wuhan.

Virology is the study of viruses and virus-like agents, including (but not limited to) their taxonomy, disease-producing properties, cultivation and genetics. It is often considered a part of microbiology or pathology. Wuhan Institute of Virology is a foremost institute conducting research and study on bats. There are around 1200 spices of bats. Studies on bats are ongoing process as bats are considered as natural resources of bacterium, virus, or other microorganism. Researcher in Wuhan Institute of Virology and other premier Virology institutes have implicated bats for coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), Ebola virus, Nipah virus, and many viruses, the recent being Covid 19.

In the initial stage when the disease was starting to spread the response of the Chinese authorities were slow and precise information was concealed or not shared with the press or with peer organizations working in the field of bat-causing virus such as coronavirus. This allegation has been vehemently denied by the Chinese authorities.

In December 2019, Li Wenliang a Chinese ophthalmologist who worked as a physician at Wuhan Central Hospital has warned his colleagues through private messages about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). His warnings were later shared publicly through messaging app. In 3rd January 2020, he was summoned by the Public Security Bureau in Wuhan. The authorities admonished him for "making false comments on the Internet" and made to sign a statement in which he was accused of making false statements that disturbed the public order. Li later contracted the virus from an infected patient (who was being originally treated for glaucoma). He died from the disease on 7th February 2020, at age 33. A subsequent Chinese official inquiry exonerated him and the Communist Party of China formally offered a "solemn apology" to his family and revoked its admonishment of him.

The later news report from Wall Street Journal and other news medium identified the 'patient zero' the first carrier of Covid 19. They identified Wei Guixian, a 57-year-old female shrimp seller at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, as the originating point of the coronavirus pandemic. The Huanan Seafood Market is located few kilometers away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Wei Guixian, according to news reports, visited the local clinic believing she had common flu. At the clinic an injection was administered to her. There was no improvement in her health and weakness persisted. A day later she was treated at Eleventh Hospital in Wuhan. Here too, she had no relief and on December 16 she checked in at the biggest medical facilities in the region - Wuhan Union Hospital. At the Union Hospital, Wei was informed her sickness was "ruthless" and that many from Huanan Market had visited the hospital with matching symptoms. At the end of December, Wei was quarantined when doctors related the emergence of the coronavirus with the seafood market.

Later news reports in the series of 'patient zero' identification is an intern working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This intern as per Fox News report has been working at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China and she was accidently infected before spreading the disease among the common people outside the lab in Wuhan city. The Huanan Seafood Market which was earlier blamed for spreading the disease never sold bats. It so happened as per news reports, from the intern his boyfriend got infected. The infected intern and his infected boyfriend went to the wet market in Wuhan from where it began to spread.

How it started to spread its tentacles

As per news reports as early as in December 2019, the Chinese authorities were aware of the virus and its contagious nature. But instead of sharing information with the world, the Chinese authorities, it is alleged, destroyed samples, suppressed and changed data, scrubbed contaminated areas, erased early reports, and restrained academic articles from publishing. Voices of doctors and journalists were muzzled. Being aware the contagious virus was accidently leaked by an intern while working in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to deflect the attention the Chinese authorities blamed the Huanan Seafood Market. Later reports gave a clean chit to the Huanan Seafood Market and mentioned this wet market never sold bats. To contain the virus from spreading to other parts of China, the authorities stopped movement of peoples and vehicles from Wuhan to the rest of China, but unfortunately did not stopped international flights from Wuhan.

On 31 December 2019, World Health Organisation (WHO) China Country Office was informed. On January 3, the authorities contacted the US Centers for Disease Control and publicly identified the pathogen as a novel coronavirus on January 8. On 12 January 2020, China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus for countries to use in developing specific diagnostic kits. Much before 31st December the information of virus was trending in WeChat and US intelligence believe China delayed in informing about the novel coronavirus to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it. During the interim period data analysed by the US intelligence suggest China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. On 13 January 2020, the first case of novel coronavirus outside China was reported in Thailand and by 20th January it has spread to Japan and Republic of Korea. Italy the first of the worst affected country reported it first confirmed case on 31st January 2020 when two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive for the virus. One week later an Italian man repatriated back to Italy from the city of Wuhan, China, was hospitalised and confirmed as the third case in Italy.

Italy being the fashion capital of the world most of the big global brands like Gucci and Prada have their base in Italy. The fashion and garment industry in Italy has outsourced their manufacturing to manpower of Chinese origin, most of them are from Wuhan. Wuhan has direct flight to Italy. As per a news report, there are more than 300,000 Chinese in Italy and over 90 percent of them work in the Italian garment industry. Majority of Chinese in Italy went back to China to celebrate the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) which started from January 25th and ends on 8th February. As per news report Wuhan hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people. These people went back to Italy and by the beginning of March the virus has spread to all regions of Italy. From Italy it spread to other European nations.

From Italy the cases of Covid-19 started to increase in Spain after a football match was played between Italy-based Atalanta BC and visiting Spanish club Valencia. It was the biggest soccer game in Atalanta’s history. Close to 40,000 Italians and nearly 2,500 fans of Spanish club Valencia were in the stand. This match was played two days before the first case of locally transmitted Covid-19 was confirmed in Italy. Back then the concept of social distancing, face masks and gloves were not there. It was during this soccer match fans mingled with each other and exchanged the Covid-19 virus between them. Less than after a week of the match in Valencia, Spain, a journalist who traveled to the match became infected, and later on people who were in contact with him also had the virus, as did Valencia fans who were at the game. From then on the virus spread rapidly. Experts also opines the unusually mild, sunny spring in late February and early March, political party conferences and massive demonstration to mark International Women’s day where people mingled with each other for the rapid spread.

Till the writing for this article approximately over twenty five million have been tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 8 lakhs have died of Covid-19.

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