Most New York virus cases came from Europe

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programmes had been put in place

April 09, 2020 10:21 pm | Updated 10:21 pm IST

People at a makeshift hospital under construction at the USTA Billie Jean King national tennis center.

People at a makeshift hospital under construction at the USTA Billie Jean King national tennis center.

New research indicates that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that travellers brought in the virus mainly from Europe, not Asia.

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“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at NYU Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. Both teams analysed genomes from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March.

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programmes had been put in place.

On January 31, President Donald Trump barred foreign nationals from entering the country if they had been in China during the prior two weeks.

It would not be until late February that Italy would begin locking down towns and cities, and March 11 when Mr. Trump said he would block travellers from most European countries. But New Yorkers had already been travelling home with the virus. “People were just oblivious,” said Adriana Heguy, a member of the NYU team. Ny times

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