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Chinese state media suggests coronavirus pandemic originated in Italy

Chinese media outlets have linked the origin of the coronavirus pandemic with Italy after a Milan-based professor said doctors there saw ‘very strange’ pneumonia cases as early as November.

Beijing is now rejecting the widely held assessment that the city of Wuhan is the birthplace of the global outbreak after the number of daily infections there dropped to zero but soared in Europe.

State-run news organisations including The Global Times and CCTV have flocked to report on comments made by Italian professor Giuseppe Remuzzi.

The Bérgamo-born expert claimed that the disease could have circulated in Italy for months before people became aware of the outbreak in China.

Professor Giuseppe Remuzzi (pictured) has denied commenting on the origin of the coronavirus amid controversy. He later told Chinese media that the key point of his comments was how far the virus had spread before it was discovered, not where it came from

Professor Giuseppe Remuzzi (pictured) has denied commenting on the origin of the coronavirus amid controversy. He later told Chinese media that the key point of his comments was how far the virus had spread before it was discovered, not where it came from

The expert told US outlet NPR last week that local doctors 'remember having seen very strange pneumonias [ sic ], very severe, particularly in old people, in December and even in November'. The picture shows a medic at a coronavirus hospital in Rome on Wednesday

The expert told US outlet NPR last week that local doctors ‘remember having seen very strange pneumonias [ sic ], very severe, particularly in old people, in December and even in November’. The picture shows a medic at a coronavirus hospital in Rome on Wednesday

Professor Remuzzi, Director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, said in an interview last week that local doctors ‘remember having seen very strange pneumonias [sic], very severe, particularly in old people, in December and even in November.’

He told American news organisation NPR: ‘It means that the virus was circulating at least in Lombardy before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China.’ 

His comments were quickly seized by China’s tightly controlled press, which used them to prove that the global health crisis did not start in China.

State newspaper Global Times reported that ‘virus might already be spreading in Italy before the epidemic erupted in China’.

While state broadcaster CCTV cited another interview of professor Remuzzi to stressed that ‘unknown pneumonia appeared in Italy as early as October last year’. 

Italy has now overtaken China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths. In the picture above, a truck drives past St. John Lateran Basilica spraying disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in Rome on Wednesday

Italy has now overtaken China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths. In the picture above, a truck drives past St. John Lateran Basilica spraying disinfectant as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in Rome on Wednesday

Globally, over 430,000 people have tested positive and more than 19,100 have lost their lives

Globally, over 430,000 people have tested positive and more than 19,100 have lost their lives

Media censors who are usually vigilant against rumours have also allowed Chinese social media users to spread similar claims about the virus emerging in Italy earlier than China.

On popular social media app WeChat, numerous posts, some by independent media, have shown their support for the allegation.

One such post said ‘analysis from Italian experts show the novel coronavirus did not originate in China’.

Without naming a specific study, the post said that the coronavirus started to spread in Italy in autumn, citing ‘new data released by Italy and reported by foreign media’.

Faced with controversy, professor Remuzzi told Shanghai-based outlet Jiemian in a report on Monday that his information came from a few doctors, but no evidence suggested that those patients had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

In another interview with independent Chinese outlet DeepTech, the professor said the key point of his comments was how far the virus had spread before it was discovered, not where it came from. 

MailOnline has contacted professor Remuzzi for comments on the matter.

China has lifted the travel restrictions on Hubei Province, but the lockdown will remain enforced in Wuhan until April 8. People are seen getting out of a bus in Wuhan on Wednesday

China has lifted the travel restrictions on Hubei Province, but the lockdown will remain enforced in Wuhan until April 8. People are seen getting out of a bus in Wuhan on Wednesday 

Interestingly, Chinese media’s attention on professor Remuzzi’s remarks seems to contradict with their reports about the first coronavirus patients in Italy.

Cover News, an outlet under state-run Sichuan Daily Group, reported that the very first confirmed sufferers of COVID-19 in Italy were a couple from Wuhan.

The article, released on Monday, said the couple arrived in Italy on January 23 and were treated in Rome. 

Medics are pictured working in the temporary structures built next to the Brescia hospital due to the coronavirus outbreak, Brescia, Italy on Tuesday

Medics are pictured working in the temporary structures built next to the Brescia hospital due to the coronavirus outbreak, Brescia, Italy on Tuesday

Italy has now overtaken China as the country with the most coronavirus deaths after the epicentre of the outbreak shifted to Europe this month.

The country went into partial lockdown nearly three weeks ago after an outbreak was detected in Lombardy in northern Italy.

Death daily toll there has been soaring. Officials yesterday reported 743 new fatalities while the country set a world record of 793 deaths on Saturday.

So far, more than 69,000 have been infected and at least 6,800 people have died of the disease in Italy.

Globally, over 430,000 people have tested positive and more than 19,100 have lost their lives in the pandemic.

China admitted the coronavirus originated in Wuhan in January 

A woman walks in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market on January 12

A woman walks in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market on January 12

The push to question the origin of the disease contradicts China’s own initial assessment about the source of the virus.

Gao Fu, head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in January ‘we now know the source of the virus is wild animals sold at the seafood market’ in Wuhan.

Chinese authorities themselves saw Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province as a threat as they placed the region of 56 million people under strict quarantine to contain the epidemic.

But Beijing began sowing doubts in late February, when Zhong Nanshan, a respected expert affiliated with the National Health Commission, told reporters ‘the epidemic first appeared in China, but didn’t necessarily originate in China’.

Scientists, however, have long suspected that the virus jumped from an animal at the Wuhan market to a human before spreading globally.

The World Health Organization has said that while the exact path the virus took between its animal source and humans is still unclear, COVID-19 was ‘unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019’.

Christl Donnelly, a professor of statistical epidemiology at Imperial College London, said genetic analysis of coronavirus samples collected from around the world showed a common ancestor in China.

‘This is not in any way blaming a particular country,’ she told AFP.

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Written by Angle News

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