UK Covid-19 patient zero identified as researchers investigate disease’s origins

Analysts believe they have positively identified the earliest-known person to contract the deadly coronavirus within the UK.

Researchers looking at samples by the University of Nottingham showed a 75-year-old woman from Nottinghamshire, tested positive for Covid-19 on February 21.

She is also believed to have been the first woman in the UK to die after contracting the disease.

Previously, a Surrey man was believed to have been the first to have caught the virus.

The findings have only just now come to light as samples were being analysed in retrospect by researchers as they investigated the pandemic’s origins.

Some 2,000 routine respiratory samples taken from patients at the Queen’s Medical Centre between January and March were tested.

The report stated: “Patient one in this study is, to the best of our knowledge, the earliest described community-acquired case of SARS-CoV-2in the UK, admitted to hospital care on February 21.

“She was also the first UK Covid-19 death, preceding the earliest known death by two days.”

The report has yet to be peer-reviewed, however.

It had previously been thought the first transmission of coronavirus in the country had happened on February 28.

But the new research has suggested the disease had been circulating in the UK from at least early February.

Other research, published in May, revealed that France’s first case was back in December – not long after the outbreak in Wuhan.

Professor Jonathan Ball, one of the study authors, said there was “widespread community transmission of coronavirus” in Nottingham back in early February.

He told The BBC: “Had the diagnostic criteria for Covid-19 been widened earlier to include patients with compatible symptoms but no travel history, it is likely that earlier imported infections would have been detected, which could have led to an earlier lockdown and lower deaths.

"However, the capacity for testing available nationally was not sufficient at the time to process the volume of testing required.

"In order to prepare for any future pandemic such as this, the UK urgently needs to invest in and expand diagnostic capacity within NHS and PHE diagnostic laboratory services."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "NHS Test and Trace is working, it's completely free and is stopping the spread of coronavirus.

"During this unprecedented pandemic, we have rapidly built the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in British history, meaning anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a test."

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