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China told the World Health Organisation on December 31 about the outbreak, but satellite images suggest the virus could have been impacting the nation a lot earlier. This could help explain how French scientists found a case of COVID-19 around December 27, 2019, when retesting old samples of patients with pneumonia.
Most scientists believe the virus jumped from animals to humans, potentially from a market selling exotic animals in Wuhan.
Harvard Medical professor, Dr John Brownstein, looked at satellite images of Wuhan hospitals from 2019 and compared them to 2018.
The researchers accessed 350 images, which were taken from private satellites.
According to The Harvard Medical School, the number of cars parked outside all of the Wuhan hospitals last autumn was higher than during other years.
For example, Wuhan Tongji Medical University had 214 cars parked outside in September 2019, compared to just 112 cars in October 2018.
Meanwhile, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University had 506 cars parked one day in October 2018 but 640 cars parked one day in October 2019.
They also found that the Chinese search engine Baidu had received an increase in the number of searches for ‘cough’ and ‘diarrhoea’.
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Both of these symptoms are related to COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation.
Dr Brownstein said to ABC News: “Something was happening in October.
“Clearly, there was some level of social disruption taking place well before what was previously identified as the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.”
Around 100 countries across the world have called for an independent inquiry into how the coronavirus pandemic began.
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China has said they are open to any investigation but it must be free of political interference.
US President Donald Trump has accused China of a lack of transparency over the issue.
Scientists from the University College London also believe the pandemic started between October and December of last year.
China has repeatedly denied they reacted slowly to the coronavirus outbreak.
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