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Surge in Procurement of PCR Tests Months Before Official Declaration of COVID-19 Suggests Early Outbreak in China

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: October 6, 2021
WUHAN, CHINA - AUG. 6: (CHINA OUT) A medical worker takes samples during a mass Covid-19 test in a residential block on Aug. 6, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. (Image: Getty Images)

According to Beijing, the first symptomatic case of COVID-19 was recorded on Dec. 8, 2019. Some experts have raised the possibility that the virus may have been in circulation much earlier. A cybersecurity company based in Australia recently released a report that lends credence to this theory.

The company, Internet 2.0, collected data about the sale of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in China over several years. PCR tests are used to detect viruses in humans and animals. It is one of the most widely used tests to detect COVID-19.

In the province of Hubei, 67.4 million yuan ($10.5 million) was spent on PCR tests in early 2019, which is double the money spent in 2018. Orders for PCR tests from animal testing bureaus jumped ten times while those from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went up by about five times. 

The use of these tests began to rise from May 2019, more than six months before the first reported case. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the CDC made significant purchases of these tests. Between July and October, orders from the Wuhan University of Science and Technology also began to rise. In 2019, the university spent eight times more money on these tests. The university is involved in responding to outbreaks of new diseases.

The Internet 2.0 report is based on an analysis of 1,716 procurement contracts between 2007 and 2019. The city of Wuhan, where the first reported cases emerged, is located in Hubei province. Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the laboratory which is at the center of the lab leak theory, is also located in the province.

Though PCR tests are used for purposes other than COVID-19 testing, the fact that more money was spent just months before the pandemic officially emerged raises questions regarding the true situation. “We assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the [World Health Organization] about COVID-19,” the report states.

In an interview with The Australian, a U.S. government source stated that the data in the report raises “a lot of questions.” He noted that the surge in PCR test procurement coincided with China’s Global Virome Project that began in 2017. The project aims to “discover zoonotic viral threats & stop future pandemics.”

The source added that the jump in PCR orders came at a time when the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were helping Beijing expand its surveillance capacity of infectious diseases.

“I think there’s more than just smoke here, I think there’s fire from a whole bunch of different sources… I think that would be ­another compelling piece of evidence, if you need more. I don’t need more,” John Ratcliffe, former director of U.S. National ­Intelligence, told the media outlet.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Michael Shoebridge, director of defense at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, stated that higher PCR test procurement does not necessarily indicate that an outbreak has occurred. However, the data collected by Internet 2.0 may shine a light on the activities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

“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,” Shoebridge said.