A quarter of the people outside mainland China who were infected with the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the first 11 weeks of the pandemic had travelled to Italy, according to a new study published this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
The European Commission did not issue any travel recommendations in the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the EU and did not coordinate flight bans or other travel restrictions to China and other countries affected by the virus.
The start of the pandemic could be linked to three countries, according to the study in the medical magazine.
The researchers looked at the first case registered in each of 99 countries outside mainland China in the first 11 weeks of the pandemic – between 31 December 2019 and 10 March 2020. They found that close to two-thirds (60%) of these persons had travelled to Italy (27%), China (22%) or Iran (11%).
The results suggest that trips to a small number of countries with high COVID-19 transmission rates led to the spread of the virus around the world before the pandemic was declared on 11 March, one of the report’s authors, Dr. Fatimah Dawood of the Centres for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) was quoted as saying in a press release issued by The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
However, the researchers stress that there are significant limits to the study, including the fact that the first cases declared in a given country may not have been the first infections there since previous ones could have gone unnoticed.
A total of 32,000 cases of COVID-19 were registered in the 99 countries covered by the study during the period under review.
Travel to Italy was linked to half of the first cases detected in Africa, 36% of those diagnosed in Europe, and 38% of those on the American continent.
On the other hand, 83% of the first cases reported in the Pacific zone were linked to travel to China.