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 from researchers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.
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. The report, released by a research team that includes former intelligence officers, is based on records from a website aggregating information on bids for public sector procurement contracts.
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.
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.
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