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.
PCR tests were invented way back in 1983, so it’s technology that has been around for a long time.
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.
Purchases rose sharply from July through October as well, in particular from the Wuhan University of Science and Technology. The institution spent 8.92 million yuan on PCR tests in 2019, about eight times its total for the previous year.
“We can’t say for sure with just” the public procurement information, said Akira Igata, a visiting professor at Tama Graduate School of Business in Tokyo who examined that data independently, “but it’s strong information for making the case that there was awareness of a virus outbreak around Wuhan several months to half a year before that December.”
Of course, China denies the report. They’d never tell us if they were actually behind, nor will we ever believe their denials even if they actually weren’t behind it.
But it does seem as if the Fauci Virus popped up a lot earlier than we thought, and China knew it the whole time.