According to the latest data provided by the South China Morning Post, the number of people infected with the 2019-nCoV coronavirus has exceeded 4,600 people, the number of victims has reached 107. Meanwhile, a large team of virologists from several Chinese universities and clinics presented an extensive report describing the first 41 confirmed cases of the new disease.
In an article published in The Lancet, scientists start with the very first patient who fell ill on December 1, 2019. The authors note that this case has not been unambiguously associated with the "very" market in Wuhan, from where, according to all subsequent reports, the spread of the infection began. Moreover, out of 41 described cases, such a connection was not found in 13.
The authors suggest that the first cases of human infection with the 2019-nCoV virus could have occurred as early as November, and possibly earlier, but remained unidentified. In this case, one of the infected could bring the disease to the market by the beginning of December, after which the next stage of the spread of the infection began.
The work of a biologist at the Scripps Institute, Kristian Andersen, also points to the possibility of such a scenario. After analyzing the available genomes of 27 2019-nCoV viruses, he concluded that they all had a "last common ancestor" around October 1, 2019.
All this again raises the question of the reliability of the information disseminated by the Chinese authorities about the epidemic. The authors of the new article note that between January 11 and 18, there were no reports of new cases of infection at all, and only on the 18th the ability of the virus to be transmitted from person to person was officially confirmed.
All of the cases analyzed in the new publication were reported prior to January 11, 2020, at which time the authorities were probably aware of the details of each 41 patients. Perhaps they also understood the lack of communication between a significant part of the sick with the notorious market.