Coronavirus Spread to Europe Weeks Earlier Than Previously Known, French Doctors Say

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Doctors in France reported that a patient in late December tested positive for the coronavirus, a finding that could significantly advance the timeline of the global spread of the virus.

The discovery came after French doctors retested samples taken on Dec. 27 from a patient initially diagnosed with pneumonia at a hospital near Paris. That was days before Chinese authorities first reported the coronavirus outbreak to the World Health Organization, and more than a month before the disease was first officially acknowledged to have emerged in France.

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The new finding underscores just how late authorities in Europe were in recognizing that the virus had arrived in their midst and in fashioning a full-throttle response.

Doctors cautioned that the finding still must be verified and that the case may not be directly related to the epidemic that has ravaged France since.

The French case also indicates that person-to-person transmission was taking place in Europe far earlier than previously known because the infected man had not been out of the country since August.

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