Beijing has criticised a US study suggesting that the virus that causes Covid-19 may have been circulating in China since last August, calling it proof of a disinformation campaign, Reuters reports.
The paper by researchers at Boston University and Harvard – which has not been peer-reviewed – analysed photos of car parks at Wuhan hospitals and search trends on Baidu, a Chinese search engine.
The team led by Elaine Nsoesie at Boston University said they found “a steep increase in volume starting in August 2019” at Wuhan hospital parking lots, “culminating with a peak in December 2019.”
While they admitted they could not definitively confirm that the data was linked to the virus, the said it supported conclusions reached by other research suggesting that the virus began circulating earlier than the first reported cases at the end of 2019.
On Thursday, China’s foreign ministry criticised the paper as “full of holes” and “crudely manufactured.” Hua Chunying, the ministry’s spokeswoman, said the study was evidence of coordinated efforts in the US to “deliberately create and disseminate disinformation against China”.
“Some US politicians and media acted like they found buried treasure and want only spread [the study], treating it like new proof that China concealed the epidemic,” Hua told reporters at a regular briefing.