Spending on tests that can be used to detect the novel coronavirus soared in Wuhan, China, several months before the first official reporting of COVID-19 cases, according to research by Australian cybersecurity firm Internet 2.0.
The firm tracked the sales of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests over several years, revealing an almost 50 percent increase between 2018 to 2019—the year before the COVID-19 outbreak spread across the world, suggesting the possibility that the virus was already circulating in communities during the northern summer in 2019 before it was made public by Beijing.
Sales of PCR tests, used to detect specific viruses, totaled 19.1 million yuan (AU$4 million) in 2016, before rising to 29.1 million yuan (AU$6 million) in 2017, 36.7 million yuan in 2018, and 67.4 million yuan (AU$14 million) in 2019.
“We assess with medium confidence the significant increase from 2018 to 2019 in Hubei province (67.4 million yuan of total PCR equipment in 2019) is due to an event like the emergence of COVID-19,” it continues.
“Finally, we assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the WHO about COVID-19.”
The study was carried out via an analysis of 1,716 procurement contracts from 2007 to the end of 2019.
It also identified a “notable, significant, and abnormal” amount of PCR equipment purchases in 2019 from Wuhan-based institutions such as the People’s Liberation Army Airborne Army Hospital (May 2019), The Wuhan Institute of Virology (November 2019), the Wuhan University of Science and Technology (October 2019), and the Hubei Province Districts Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (May–December 2019)
The first COVID-19 cases were officially reported on Dec. 31, 2019; however, questions have lingered as to the exact cause of the outbreak, with a highly publicized WHO-backed investigation yielding results that have since been challenged.
Michael Shoebridge, director of defense at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said Internet 2.0’s report provides additional data points to aid in efforts uncovering the truth of the origin of the pandemic.
“PCR test equipment is now widely associated with accurate COVID tests, but it has much wider uses in genetic and biotechnological research, so a surge in procurement of this equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that a disease outbreak had occurred. Other explanations could be an acceleration of different lines of research,” he told The Epoch Times in an email.
However, he noted that it doesn’t rule out Internet 2.0’s conclusion that the Chinese regime may have been trying to deal with a possible outbreak.
Further, if information on the motives behind mass PCR purchases could be obtained, it could shed further light on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) activities.
“Of course, this is exactly what Chinese authorities don’t want to happen and so data reconstruction and discovery like that done by Internet 2.0 will remain a means for pursuing further investigation,” he added. “I wouldn’t discount other information coming to light from disclosures from within China, as there have been precedents in other areas of activity, such as leaks of government documents about Xinjiang.
“The simple fact that disclosure of what happened is obviously in the interests of anyone who wants to prevent future pandemics means that CCP behavior to frustrate this knowledge opens a gap between the interests of the regime governing China, and the populations of China and the rest of the world. That gap is likely only to broaden as time passes.”