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Lead WHO investigator in Wuhan probe: COVID was already widespread by time it was first reported

Investigator Peter Ben Embarek says COVID was "circulating widely" in Wuhan by time first reported by Chinese officials in December 2019. 

Updated: February 16, 2021 - 3:57pm

The lead investigator in the recently-concluded World Health Organization probe into the start of COVID in China says the virus was "circulating widely" in the city of Wuhan by the time it was first reported there by Chinese officials in December 2019. 

"The virus was circulating widely in Wuhan in December, which is a new finding," the investigator, Peter Ben Embarek, told CNN on Monday. 

Embarek also said the roughly two-week, fact-finding mission that ended earlier this month uncovered several signs of a more wide-ranging virus spread in late 2019, including that over a dozen strains were circulating in Wuhan at that time. 

The team also spoke to the first patient Chinese officials said had been infected, an office worker in his 40s with no travel history of note, reported infected on Dec. 8, Embarek said.

He also said the international team of WHO scientists is also trying to gain access to hundreds of thousands of blood samples from Wuhan that China has yet to let allow them to examine.