TOKYO — Purchases of PCR tests in China’s Hubei Province surged months before the first official reports of a novel coronavirus case there, according to a report by Australia-based cybersecurity company Internet 2.0.
About 67.4 million yuan ($10.5 million at current rates) was spent on PCR tests in Hubei during 2019, nearly double the 2018 total, with the upswing starting in May, according to the report.
Internet 2.0 collected and analyzed data from a website that aggregates information on public procurement bids in China. The analysis team consists of former officials from intelligence agencies in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and other countries.
The report casts further doubt on China’s official line about the origins of the virus, a topic that has fueled tensions between Beijing and Washington. China’s foreign ministry has disputed the report’s findings.
PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests are used to detect the presence of a particular genetic sequence in a sample, and they have applications beyond COVID-19 testing. But the report alleges the unusual uptick likely signals awareness of a new disease spreading in and around Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province.
Orders doubled from universities, jumped fivefold from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and surged tenfold from animal testing bureaus. Purchases from hospitals declined by more than 10%.
Monthly procurement data shows a spike in orders in May, especially from CDC buyers and the People’s Liberation Army.
“We believe the increased spending in May suggests this as the earliest start date for possible infection,” the report said.https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/China-PCR-test-orders-soared-before-first-confirmed-COVID-case
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