On This Day: COVID-19 patient zero reportedly diagnosed in China in 2019

According to this report, which was widely cited by other media outlets though never independently confirmed, the first COVID-19 patient was an unidentified 55-year-old from China's Hubei province. 

This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti (photo credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus parti
(photo credit: NIAID-RML/FILE PHOTO/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

November 17, 2021, marks two years since the first human case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected, essentially kicking off the pandemic that has spread worldwide and claimed millions of lives, according to local media reports.

Local newspaper The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported back in March 2020 that the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed on this day by Chinese authorities, weeks before the existence of COVID-19 was announced to the world. According to this report, which was widely cited by other media outlets though never independently confirmed, the first COVID-19 patient was an unidentified 55-year-old from China's Hubei province. 

Hubei province is home to the city of Wuhan, which most experts agree was where the pandemic started.

The origin of the pandemic is still hotly contested around the world by researchers and politicians. Indeed, the November 17 diagnosis has yet to be independently confirmed. However, a November-October origin seems likely, according to academic articles studying the SARS-CoV-2's sequenced cases.

Exactly how the virus spread and where it originated remains unclear, though it is widely accepted that it is a zoonotic disease originally found in bats, as are many coronaviruses. 

A building with a sign of Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is pictured in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Hubei province, China May 15, 2020. (credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)A building with a sign of Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is pictured in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Hubei province, China May 15, 2020. (credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)

A common belief of how the virus began spreading into humans was that it was the result of the Wuhan wet market, which sells live, exotic animals. Others have accused the Wuhan Institute of Virology of having been involved, though any concrete evidence supporting this claim has yet to be conclusively found.

Much of the uncertainty regarding the origin of COVID-19 and the early cases is due to the difficulty of getting reports from China. Many have accused Beijing of intentionally covering up the virus at first, as well as censoring information and silencing attempted whistleblowers.

What is clear is that by late December 2019, COVID-19 began spreading rapidly throughout China. Soon, it spread worldwide and was declared a global pandemic.

Two years later, the pandemic continues to circulate throughout the world, and has even mutated into several variants. A number of treatments and vaccines have been proposed, with some, like the Pfizer vaccine, seeing widespread use worldwide.

Over 254 million people have reportedly been infected with COVID-19, and the disease has also claimed over five million lives.