In Brief

Did coronavirus reach Europe last year?

French doctor claims first infection emerged in December in patient who had not travelled to China

The Covid-19 coronavirus may have reached Europe as early as December - one month before the first officially confirmed case, a French doctor has claimed.

Yves Cohen, head of intensive care at the Avicenne hospital in Paris, has “caused a stir” by alleging that repeat coronavirus tests on samples from patients admitted for pneumonia in December and January have come back with one positive result, The Telegraph reports.

The positive sample was taken on 27 December from a 53-year-old man who had not travelled to China, he told French news channel BFM TV. 

Until now, Europe’s first confirmed Covid-19 case was believed to be in a man diagnosed in Bordeaux on 24 January.

The suggestion has “sparked further doubt on the spread of the coronavirus” and “sent shockwaves through the French scientific community”, says the Daily Express.

“We’ve reanalysed all negative tests on people who were diagnosed with pneumonia. Of the 24 patients, we had one positive result for Covid-19,” said Cohen, who claims that the test was repeated several times to confirm the findings.

The patient “is well and has fully recovered”, he added.

The BBC says that Cohen has reported the case to regional health authorities and “called for other negative tests from the same period to be re-examined”.

France has been planning to begin lifting lockdown restrictions from 11 May, with children returning to school, some businesses reopening and people allowed to travel within (60 miles) of their homes.

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