The first case of the novel coronavirus, officially called 'Covid-19' was reported on December 31, at Chinese city Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei province. Rumours are ripe that the first patient, who hasn't been identified yet, had links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The institute issued a statement on Sunday, in an attempt to bust the rumours. But the government's actions have further fanned them.
The first patient of Covid-19
Though the first patient of Covid-19 hasn't been identified, a Lancet study revealed that the patient never visited Wuhan's local sea-food and wet market, where the disease is said to have originated. A woman named Huang Yanling has claimed that she is the first patient of the deadly coronavirus. She was a graduate from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Wuhan Institute of Virology denies claims
In a statement on Sunday, the institute attempted to bust rumours that the epidemic is linked to its lab, rather than the wet market.
"Recently there has been fake information about Huang Yanling, a graduate from our institute, claiming that she was patient zero in the novel coronavirus", the institute said. Huang was a student at the institute till 2015 when she left the province and had not returned, it said. She hasn't contracted the disease and is in good health, the statement further added.
Which incidents have fanned the rumour?
On Saturday, the Ministry of Science and Technology issued a directive calling for improved management of viruses by all biological labs and for the facilities to ensure biological safety, South China Morning Post reported. Also, the first patient didn't have any links with Wuhan's local wet market, where the disease is said to have originated. Thus, he contracted the virus from other source and not the now closed animal market.
According to a paper published in Science magazine, Daniel Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, held that it was possible that the virus "came into that marketplace before it came out of that marketplace". The Wuhan Institute of Virology, the institute which is currently seen at the centre of the virus outbreak, is the only lab to be graded Biological Security Level 4, the highest level of biosafety precautions, in the mainland China.
Are there any previous cases of virus leak from Chinese labs?
A Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2004 was due to a leak from a laboratory in 2004, killing one person and infecting nine others. The leak was due to negligence, for which five senior officials at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention were punished.