According to an intelligence investigation of spending on PCR testing equipment, COVID-19 grew “virulently” in Wuhan as early as summer 2019—significantly sooner than previously assumed.

A new investigation has revealed that “notable, significant and abnormal” acquisitions of PCR lab equipment were made in the second half of that year.

Analysts trawled through PCR procurement contracts in Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital, and found spending had almost doubled on the previous year, The Telegraph reported.

The study by Internet 2.0, a cyber security firm that specializes in analyzing data from China, claims:

“We have come to the conclusion that, based on the data analysed, it suggests the virus was highly likely to be spreading virulently in Wuhan, China, as early as the summer of 2019 and definitely by the autumn.”

The information has been forwarded to U.S. government officials amid rising speculation that the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab and was hidden for months.

According to the most widely recognized account of events, COVID began in a Wuhan “wet market” selling live animals in early December.

“An initial view of the data depicts the dramatic increase of PCR procurement contracts in 2019,” the report says. “The increase was present in both the contract total value and the number of contracts.” 

However, according to the new data, Hubei Province spent $10.6 million in 2019 on PCR equipment, which is a standard kit in laboratories for amplifying small amounts of DNA and is crucial in tracing COVID, up from $5.4 million the year before and $4.5 million in 2017.

According to Internet 2.0, the total contract value in 2019 was more significant than the preceding two years combined. The number of PCR contracts climbed from 89 in 2018 to 135, according to the study.

The company’s research is based on information gathered from bidcenter.com.cn, a website that follows Chinese government contracts.

The report’s authors claim the increase in spending was accounted for by contracts at four major institutions: the Chinese Centres for Disease Control (CDC) in Hubei province, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Wuhan University of Science and Technology, and a military hospital in Wuhan.

 According to the paper, this is critical because of the bodies’ involvement in disease control and prevention in China.

According to the report, the “significant increase in spending” began in the summer of 2019 and started as early as May—seven months before Chinese public health officials warned the WHO that a strange ailment was sweeping around Wuhan.

The report concludes: “We assess with high confidence that the pandemic began much earlier than China informed the WHO about COVID-19.”

Internet 2.0 analysts performed a “robust and exhaustive assessment” of hundreds of procurement contracts for PCR equipment identified on open-source databases across the province between 2007 and 2019.

A closer look at spending in 2019 revealed an “elevated purchasing trend” by two animal testing laboratories, the Chinese military, and the CDC, according to the report.

“We believe the increased spending in May suggests this as the earliest start date for possible infection,” the study claims, adding: “We assess with medium confidence that the significant increase in PCR purchasing starts in July 2019.”

The investigators discovered contracts worth $47,600 spent on PCR instrumentation by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in early November. One theory is that the virus may have escaped from its lab.

The investigation also raises concerns about the Wuhan CDC’s $280,000 purchase of pathogen detection equipment in September, which was used for the Military World Games hosted in the city a month later.

Athletes have since stated that after returning from the Games, they became unwell with COVID-like symptoms.

“These findings,” says the report, “challenge existing assumptions around when the pandemic began. The study concludes that a significant increase in spending in PCR equipment correlates to the spread of COVID-19.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing has become ubiquitous, and it is crucial in tracking the virus and supporting practically all governments’ isolation policies.

According to the authors, the findings corroborate an unclassified official U.S. intelligence assessment published in the summer, which stated that the pandemic “occurred no later than November 2019.” 

However, Internet 2.0 believes it happened months before. “The full inventory of this catastrophe is still being compiled,” wrote Robert Potter, one of the authors of the report.

“What is clear is that investigating the coverup of the virus still has some distance to go before it is fully understood,” he added. “The data presented here gives us a strong indication that the outbreak started prior to December 2019, meaning the information gap and window for the emergence of the virus is larger than when we started this project.”

The experts stated that they did not know how the virus was transmitted initially, adding: “The fact China has gone to great lengths to ensure conclusive evidence is unobtainable means unfortunately we may have to rely on third party data points. The only answer we can already rely on is China covered up early information on the virus and has been obstructive from the start.”

China has continuously denied that it was caused by lab contamination, although Chinese President Xi Jinping indicated last week that more research into the virus’s origins was needed.

Officials stated in a statement that China had been “open.” They had “immediately released information about the epidemic domestically and abroad, to the WHO, and the international community, and immediately determined and published the full genetic sequence of the virus.”

In July, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, confessed that the organization had dismissed the idea of a lab leak far too quickly. He also claimed that efforts by the Chinese government to conceal critical papers and information connected to the investigation hampered the investigation into the pandemic’s origins, according to The Blaze.

In June, Chinese state media mentioned a top epidemiologist urging the United States to be probed as a suspected source of the coronavirus.

“All bio-weapons related subjects that the country has should be subject to scrutiny,” said Zeng Guang.

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