Adriano Decarli, an epidemiologist and medical statistics professor at the University of Milan, said there had been a “significant” increase in the number of people hospitalised for pneumonia and flu in the areas of Milan and Lodi between October and December last year.
Decarli told Reuters he could not give exact figures but “hundreds” more people than usual had been taken to hospital in the last three months of 2019 in those areas – with pneumonia and flu-like symptoms, and some of those had died.
“We want to know if the virus was already here in Italy at the end of 2019, and – if yes – why it remained undetected for a relatively long period so that we could have a clearer picture in case we have to face a second wave of the epidemic,” he said.
This week the South China Morning Post reported that the first case of COVID-19 in China could be traced back to November 17, citing unpublished Chinese government documents.
This post has been updated to reflect newly reported data from Italy’s Piedmont region.