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Harvard study: Did coronavirus start in August 2019?

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Does a study suggesting the coronavirus was present in Wuhan months before the first reported cases stand up to scrutiny?

There’s been criticism of a study from the US suggesting that the coronavirus could have been present in the Chinese city of Wuhan as early as August last year.

The study by Harvard University, which gained significant publicity when it was released earlier this month, has been dismissed by China and had its methodology challenged by independent scientists.

What did the research say?

The research is based on satellite imagery of traffic movements around hospitals in Wuhan and the tracking of online searches for specific medical symptoms.

It says there was a noticeable rise in vehicles parking outside six hospitals in the city from late August to 1 December 2019.

This coincided, says the Harvard report, with an increase in searches for possible coronavirus symptoms such as “cough” and “diarrhoea”.

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