Videos show a woman kicking, spitting at, and pulling the hair of airline passengers after being called out for not wearing a mask

A woman attacks passengers on a Ryanair flight
Screenshots from a video showing a Ryanair passenger verbally and physically assaulting other passengers.

  • A woman assaulted passengers on a Ryanair flight after she refused to wear a mask, the New Zealand Herald reported.
  • Video footage shows her pulling a passenger’s hair and kicking two men.
  • She was handed over to police officers at Milan Bergamo airport after the flight landed, Ryanair said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A woman was filmed attacking fellow passengers after being called out for not wearing a mask on a flight, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Viral footage shows the woman wearing a facemask on her chin while she verbally assaults passengers.

As tensions escalate, she can be seen pulling at a woman’s hair before spitting at others on board the Ryanair flight from Ibiza to Milan Bergamo on May 26.

Read more: ‘Harvard of the sky’: Meet the woman training private-jet flight attendants to serve the world’s most elite travelers

Later in the clip, crew members try to escort her off the plane. While being held back, she kicks two men.

“The crew of this flight from Ibiza to Milan Bergamo (26 May) requested police assistance upon arrival after a passenger became disruptive in-flight,” a Ryanair spokesperson told Insider.

The aircraft landed normally, and police removed the individual at Milan Bergamo airport. This is now a matter for local police,” the spokesperson added.

Unruly passengers are a growing problem for airlines, Insider’s Allana Akhtar reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration, an American civil aviation agency, said it had received 2,500 reports of disorderly behavior by passengers since January 2021. About 1,900 of the reports deal with passengers who refused to comply with the federal facemask mandate.

In April, Southwest Airlines passengers danced and cheered as a couple accused of refusing to wear masks were thrown off a flight.

In late May, a Southwest Airlines passenger punched a flight attendant in the face after repeatedly ignoring in-flight instructions.

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Packs of hyenas hunted Neantherthal man as prey and devoured their corpses in caves, a new find has revealed

Fossilised remains of Neanderthals in Roman cave.
Fossilised remains of nine Neanderthals in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo in Rome, Italy..

  • Archaeologists have found the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals in a cave near Rome, Italy.
  • The Neanderthals were allegedly hunted and mauled to death by hyenas, experts say.
  • Some of the bones, which included skullcaps and broken jawbones, could be up to 90,000 years old.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of nine Neanderthals who were hunted and mauled to death by a pack of hyenas in a cave just outside Rome, the Italian Culture Ministry announced Saturday.

The fossilized bones, which included skullcaps and broken jawbones, were discovered in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo in Italy’s Lazio region. They are believed to have belonged to seven adult males, one female, and one young boy.

Scientists from the Archaeological Superintendency of Latina and the University of Tor Vergata in Rome believe the bones come from different time periods. The oldest remains dating from between 100,000 and 90,000 years ago. The other eight Neanderthals are believed to date from 50,000-68,000 years ago.

Read more: Scientists have a surprising plan to speed up vaccinations – with free beer, clever texting, and lots of cash

According to the ministry statement, many bones found “show clear signs of gnawing, ” which led experts to believe the Neanderthals were attacked by hyenas, who dragged them to the cave and consumed them, Deutsche Welle reported.

hyenas
A pack of hyenas.

“Neanderthals were prey for these animals,” said Mario Rolfo, professor of archaeology at Tor Vergata University, according to the Guardian. “Hyenas hunted them, especially the most vulnerable, like sick or elderly individuals.”

The researchers also found traces of hyenas alongside the human remains. They also found remains of rhinoceroses, giant deer, wild horses and, different vegetables.

This is not the first time researchers have discovered fossils in the Guattari Cave. A Neanderthal skull was discovered there in 1939 by the anthropologist Alberto Carlo Blanc. Excavations of a new part of the cave that hadn’t been explored yet began in 2019.

“It is a spectacular find,” said Rolfo, according to the Guardian. “A collapse, perhaps caused by an earthquake, sealed this cave for more than 60,000 years, thereby preserving the remains left inside for tens of thousands of years.”

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini called the finding “an extraordinary discovery that will be the talk of the world,” according to the Associated Press.

Neanderthals are the closest known ancient relatives of humans. They inhabited Eurasia from about 400,000 years ago until a little after 40,000 years ago.

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A top Facebook exec told a whistleblower her concerns about widespread state-sponsored disinformation meant she had ‘job security’

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg
In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pauses while testifying before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

  • Facebook let dictators generate fake support despite employees’ warnings, the Guardian reported.
  • Whistleblower Sophie Zhang repeatedly raised concerns to integrity chief Guy Rosen and other execs.
  • But Rosen said the amount of disinformation on the platform meant “job security” for Zhang.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook allowed authoritarian governments to use its platform to generate fake support for their regimes for months despite warnings from employees about the disinformation campaigns, an investigation from the Guardian revealed this week.

A loophole in Facebook’s policies allowed government officials around the world to create unlimited amounts of fake “pages” which, unlike user profiles, don’t have to correspond to an actual person – but could still like, comment on, react to, and share content, the Guardian reported.

That loophole let governments spin up armies of what looked like real users who could then artificially generate support for and amplify pro-government content, what the Guardian called “the digital equivalent of bussing in a fake crowd for a speech.”

Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist on the company’s integrity team, blew the whistle dozens of times about the loophole, warning Facebook executives including vice president of integrity Guy Rosen, airing many of her concerns, according to the Guardian.

BuzzFeed News previously reported on Zhang’s “badge post” – a tradition where departing employees post an internal farewell message to coworkers.

But one of Zhang’s biggest concerns was that Facebook wasn’t paying enough attention to coordinated disinformation networks in authoritarian countries, such as Honduras and Azerbaijan, where elections are less free and more susceptible to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, the Guardian’s investigation revealed.

Facebook waited 344 days after employees sounded the alarm to take action in the Honduras case, and 426 days in Azerbaijan, and in some cases took no action, the investigation found.

But when she raised her concerns about Facebook’s inaction in Honduras to Rosen, he dismissed her concerns.

“We have literally hundreds or thousands of types of abuse (job security on integrity eh!),” Rosen told Zhang in April 2019, according the Guardian, adding: “That’s why we should start from the end (top countries, top priority areas, things driving prevalence, etc) and try to somewhat work our way down.”

Rosen told Zhang he agreed with Facebook’s priority areas, which included the US, Western Europe, and “foreign adversaries such as Russia/Iran/etc,” according to the Guardian.

“We fundamentally disagree with Ms. Zhang’s characterization of our priorities and efforts to root out abuse on our platform. We aggressively go after abuse around the world and have specialized teams focused on this work,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told Insider in a statement.

“As a result, we’ve already taken down more than 100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior. Around half of them were domestic networks that operated in countries around the world, including those in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and in the Asia Pacific region. Combatting coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority. We’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue before taking action or making public claims about them,” she said.

However, Facebook didn’t dispute any of Zhang’s factual claims in the Guardian investigation.

Facebook pledged to tackle election-related misinformation and disinformation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russia’s use of its platform to sow division among American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections.

“Since then, we’ve focused on improving our defenses and making it much harder for anyone to interfere in elections,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post.

“Key to our efforts has been finding and removing fake accounts – the source of much of the abuse, including misinformation. Bad actors can use computers to generate these in bulk. But with advances in artificial intelligence, we now block millions of fake accounts every day as they are being created so they can’t be used to spread spam, false news or inauthentic ads,” Zuckerberg added.

But the Guardian’s investigation showed Facebook is still delaying or refusing to take action against state-sponsored disinformation campaigns in dozens of countries, with thousands of fake accounts, creating hundreds of thousands of fake likes.

And even in supposedly high-priority areas, like the US, researchers have found Facebook has allowed key disinformation sources to expand their reach over the years.

A March report from Avaaz found “Facebook could have prevented 10.1 billion estimated views for top-performing pages that repeatedly shared misinformation” ahead of the 2020 US elections had it acted earlier to limit their reach.

“Failure to downgrade the reach of these pages and to limit their ability to advertise in the year before the election meant Facebook allowed them to almost triple their monthly interactions, from 97 million interactions in October 2019 to 277.9 million interactions in October 2020,” Avaaz found.

Facebook admits that around 5% of its accounts are fake, a number that hasn’t gone down since 2019, according to The New York Times. And MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao reported in March that Facebook still doesn’t have a centralized team dedicated to ensuring its AI systems and algorithms reduce the spread of misinformation.

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Trump’s last blunder. Small pizzeria in Italy sanctioned instead of a Venezuelan oil exporter.

trump pizzeria sanctions
The Trump administration mistakenly put two Italian companies, including a pizzeria, on a sanctions list.

  • On Trump’s last day in office, he ordered that sanctions be imposed on those in the Venezuelan oil industry.
  • In a case of mistaken identity, two Italian business owners had their companies blacklisted.
  • The owners of a Verona pizzeria and a Sardinia graphic design studio have been removed from the sanctions list.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Trump administration accidentally slapped sanctions on an Italian restaurant and a graphic design studio before the former president left office, The Guardian reported.

On former President Donald Trump’s last day of office, he ordered that sanctions be imposed on a network of Venezuelan oil firms and individuals associated with the state oil company – Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

This was part of a long-term economic embargo on Venezuela, intended to put an end to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

However, an unfortunate mistake meant that two Italian business owners, who shared the same name as a man involved in the Venezuelan oil trade, had their businesses targeted in the crackdown.

Read more: It’s clear the US does not care about China’s face anymore

Alessandro Bazzoni, the owner of a pizzeria in the Italian city of Verona, discovered that his business was placed on a US trade blacklist after visiting his local bank, The Guardian reported.

“When I heard that my current accounts had been blocked, I thought it was a joke,” Bazzoni told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “These are already difficult times for us restaurant owners, the last thing I needed was to have my accounts blocked.”

Bazzoni told the newspaper that he has not received an apology. He said, however, that he is grateful for his name being removed from the sanctions list. “I thank the new American government for the efficiency with which it intervened,” Bazzoni told Corriere della Sera.

Another Italian man, who is also called Alessandro Bazzoni, had his business targeted too. The US Department of the Treasury blacklisted his company, SeriGraphicLab, according to The Guardian.

The Sardinian business owner, who declined to offer comment, confirmed with the paper that his graphic design studio had been on a sanctions list.

The incidents were a case of mistaken identity. The US government was trying to target another Italian citizen who had been a “core facilitator” of a network designed to help PDVSA, The Washington Post reported.

On March 31, the Treasury updated the “specially designated nationalist list” and removed those who were affected by the mix-up.

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An Italian naval officer was arrested in the middle of meeting a Russian official to hand over secret documents, officials say

rome colisseum night
People wearing protective face masks take pictures in front of the Colosseum in Rome. Not related to this story.

  • Italian police say a naval officer was arrested while meeting with a Russian agent to hand over secret documents.
  • The two are suspected of “serious crimes tied to spying and state security,” police said.
  • Italian media reported that the trove included secret NATO documents.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An Italian naval officer was arrested while meeting with a Russian officer to hand him secret documents, police said, according to the BBC.

Police also said that they arrested the Russian diplomat, Reuters reported, and that the two individuals, who were not identified, were accused of “serious crimes tied to spying and state security,” according to Reuters.

The Italian regional newspaper Testata Giornalistica Regionale reported that the Italian officer was passing secret NATO documents to the Russian.

A police statement said the two were caught in Rome “during a clandestine meeting between the two, caught immediately after the transfer of a document by the Italian officer in exchange for a sum of money,” the BBC reported.

Italian special operations swooped in on the Tuesday night meeting in Rome, police said, according to the BBC.

Italy’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Russian ambassador Sergey Razov, according to Reuters.

The naval officer has been taken into custody, Reuters reported.

But the Russian diplomat has not yet been because of their status, and police are considering what actions to take, per Reuters.

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We visited the Vespa headquarters in Italy to see how the world-famous scooters are made

Vespas are more than just scooters. Over the years, they have become an icon of Italian culture and of “made in Italy” itself. They have been featured endlessly on the big screen in movies like Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” or “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn.

“Vespa is an extraordinary story,” Piaggio Group design director Marco Lambri told Business Insider. “It’s a story that was born in 1946, after the Second World War thanks to Enrico Piaggio’s intuition and the genuis of an engineer, Corradino D’Ascanio. At the time, Piaggio was building in the aeronautical and naval field and the owners decided to reconvert the company in a new field: personal mobility. After the war, Italy had to start up again. And through this vehicle, simple, cheap, and for everyone, they thought they could give a significant contribution.”

Vespa has made and sold over 1.6 million scooters all over the world. Vespa debuted in 1946 at the Rome Golf Club, and it quickly gained popularity. It went from selling 2,500 scooters in 1947 to more than 20 times that in only three years, selling 60,000 in 1950. The first models were sold for 55,000 lire, or about $245 at the time. Vespa prices were very competitive, and this, together with its sleek design, is what turned it into a success.

“Vespa was born after a strange combination of coincidences,” said Lambri. “Corradino D’Ascanio, its engineer, actually didn’t love motorbikes. He designed this Vespa based on who was supposed to drive it but without the constraits of motorbikes back then. It had to be easy to use, protective, comfortable. He designed it thinking about how he would have used it. Its name comes from Enrico Piaggio’s exclamation when he saw the first prototype. Its shape, with a narrow waist and large rear,resembled a wasp (vespa in Italian). When he said it, he said, “It looks like a wasp!” And this is how Vespa was born.”

We visited the headquarters of Vespa and the Piaggio Group in Pontedera, Italy to see how the iconic two-wheelers are made. Vespa differs from other scooters in that its body frame is made entirely of steel stampings that are welded together, which is exactly how Piaggio made its airplanes when it launched the scooter in 1946.

Aside from the Pontedera factory, Piaggio also opened a factory in Vietnam in 2013 to cater for the great demand in Asian markets.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2019.

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Italy misled the WHO by claiming it was fully prepared for a pandemic when COVID-19 hit, lawsuit says

italy coronavirus mask flag
A man walks past a billboard raising awareness about COVID-19 in Naples, Italy.

  • Italy is accused of misleading the WHO in its pandemic preparedness when COVID-19 hit last year.
  • It said it was at the top level of readiness, but had not updated its plan since 2006, documents say.
  • The allegation is in a civil lawsuit filed against the government by families of COVID-19 victims.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Italian government has been accused of misleading the World Health Organization in a self-assessment of its pandemic preparedness days before its COVID-19 outbreak, The Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida reported.

The allegation is part of a civil lawsuit filed against the government by families of coronavirus victims in Bergamo, a city in northern Italy that was heavily affected in the pandemic’s first wave last spring, according to Reuters.

Documents seen by The Guardian show that the country’s self-assessment report, filed to the WHO on February 4 last year, placed itself at “Level 5” – the maximum level of preparedness.

Italy is a signatory to the International Health Regulations treaty, which requires countries to file annual reports on their readiness for public-health emergencies.

When a country says it’s on Level 5 of preparedness, it means its health and national-emergency operations are “tested and updated regularly,” according to the self-assessment guidelines.

However, the country had not updated its pandemic-preparedness plan since 2006, The Guardian reported. A report on Italy’s pandemic response published by the WHO said the country reviewed the plan in 2017, but it merely reconfirmed the 2006 plan, the Associated Press reported

Top members of the Italian government, including then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, have been questioned as part of the case, according to the newspaper. He told The Guardian last October he had done everything he could to mitigate the outbreak in trying circumstances.

Insider has contacted the office of Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who was in office during Conte’s tenure, and the country’s Ministry of Health for comment.

GettyImages 1215582958
Nurses prepare a patient for transport at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, on March 29, 2020.

Italy was one of the first countries to be heavily affected by the spread of the virus, with reports last March of overwhelmed hospitals and, in Lombardy, a tragically expanded newspaper obituary section. The virus took hold with breathtaking speed, as Insider previously reported

As of Tuesday, the country has seen just under 96,000 deaths with the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. More than 2.8 million people in Italy have been infected. 

The country is second only to the UK for the number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe.

Italy’s first reported case was on February 21, 2020 – less than two weeks after the country gave the WHO its “Level 5” assurance, according to The Guardian. 

The retired army general Pier Paolo Lunelli, who has compiled an analysis of Italy’s self-assessment, said that most of the statements made in it were “groundless,” the paper reported. 

“We lied to the Italian citizens claiming we were ready,” Lunelli wrote, according to The Guardian. “Worse, we tried to deceive even the WHO, the EU and the ‘provident’ European countries, declaring to have capabilities which, in the light of the facts, we did not have.”

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Incredible photos show the dramatic eruption of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano

mount etna
A detail of the new eruption of the Etna volcano seen from the port of Riposto in the province of Catania, Italy, on February 18, 2021.

  • Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted on Tuesday.
  • Italian officials said there was no danger to the surrounding villages but closed a nearby airport. 
  • Scroll down to see amazing images of the volcano, which spewed smoke, ashes, and glowing lava.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sicily’s Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, spewed smoke, ashes, and lava in a new eruption earlier this week.

Although the explosion looked dramatic, Italian authorities said it posed no danger to any of the surrounding villages, and residents did not seem concerned. 

Scroll down to see spectacular images of the eruption.

Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, erupted earlier this week.

mount etna
A close-up of Mount Etna erupting in Catania, Italy, on February 18, 2021.

At nearly 11,000 feet (3,324 meters), Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe. It is located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy.

Source: Britannica

 

The volcano first erupted on Tuesday, sending rose-colored plumes of ash into the sky…

mount etna
A view of the Mount Etna eruption spewing ash, as seen from Paterno, Italy, on February 16, 2021.

…and showering nearby villages with small stones and grey ash.

mount etna
Mount Etna leaves ash on a car in Catania, Italy, on February 16, 2021

By night time, the clouds had disappeared, but glowing lava continued to stream out of the crater.

mount etna
A detail of the new eruption of the Etna volcano seen from the port of Riposto in the province of Catania, Italy, on February 18, 2021.

Here is a closer look at the glowing river of lava running down the volcano throughout the night.

mount etna
Streams of red hot lava flow as Mount Etna leaps into action, seen from Giarre, Italy on February 16, 2021.

Hot lava continued to shoot out of the volcano’s crater.

mount etna
Mount Etna erupts in Sicily, sending plumes of ash and spewing lava into the air on February 18, 2021.

Although pictures of the event look dramatic, Italian officials told local media: “We’ve seen worse.”

mount etna
Mount Etna erupts above Catania, Italy, on February 18, 2021.

Mount Etna has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years.

Source: Euronews

Officials also said the eruption poses no danger to surrounding villages. However, they still closed Catania’s international airport as a precaution.

mount etna
The new eruption of the Etna volcano seen from the port of Riposto in the province of Catania on February 18, 2021.

Source: The Telegraph 

Most Sicilians said they were not worried and that they’re used to the volcano erupting.

mount etna
A passer-by with an umbrella in the streets of Catania, Italy protects himself from the volcanic ash from Mount Etna on February 16, 2021.

Source: The Independent

Daniele Palumbo, who is originally from Sicily but is now living in London, said it’s “always really funny” to see how outsiders react when Etna erupts.

mount etna
A woman walks her dog in the aftermath of an impressive Mount Etna volcanic eruption in Catania, Italy, on February 17, 2021.

“I think we would be more worried if all these events didn’t happen,” Palumbo said, according to the Independent.

Source: The Independent

The volcano has since calmed down, only leaving behind ash for city workers to clean up.

mount etna
Workers clean a square in the aftermath of an impressive Mount Etna volcanic eruption in Catania, Italy, on February 17, 2021.

Source: Volcano Discovery

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Suspicions mount that the coronavirus was spreading in China and Europe as early as October, following a WHO investigation

covid researchers wuhan
A worker in protective coverings directs members of the World Health Organization (WHO) team on their arrival at the airport in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province on January 14, 2021.

  • Experts from the WHO and China conducted an investigation into the coronavirus’ origins in Wuhan.
  • The investigation bolstered findings from studies that suggested the virus was circulating in China and Europe months before officials confirmed the first cases.
  • One study found that some people in the US had coronavirus antibodies in December 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A growing body of evidence suggests the coronavirus was spreading globally months before the first cases in a Wuhan market captured global attention last December.

The World Health Organization sent an international team to China in January to investigate the virus’ origins and when it started circulating.

The team assessed medical records from more than 230 clinics across Hubei – the province where Wuhan is located – to look for clues. More than 90 patients in the province were hospitalized with pneumonia or coronavirus-like symptoms in October and November 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

This finding lends credence to other research from China that shows people were getting sick in Wuhan in November and early December. One analysis, based on satellite images of Wuhan hospitals and online searches for COVID-19 symptoms in the area, suggested the virus may have started circulating there as early as late summer.

A study from Milan’s National Cancer Institute also found that four of Italy’s coronavirus cases dated back to October 2019. Another study suggests the virus reached the US’ West Coast in December 2019.

Although pinpointing the exact date of the virus’ first jump from animals to people is impossible without more data, these findings suggest the pandemic’s December anniversary is arbitrary.

The virus was spreading in Wuhan before the December

Wuhan hospital
Healthcare workers transport bodies outside a hospital in Wuhan, China, February 5, 2020.

Wuhan public-health officials initially told the WHO about a mysterious illness that would later be named the novel coronavirus on December 31, 2019.

But government records show China’s first coronavirus case happened on November 17, 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post.

According to the SCMP, Chinese medical experts pinpointed 60 coronavirus cases from November and December by reanalyzing samples taken from patients seen during that time. That analysis showed that a 55-year-old from Hubei was the first known case of COVID-19 in the world, though the disease hadn’t been identified at that time.

Prior to the January WHO investigation, Chinese authorities worked to sample blood from 92 people in Hubei who were hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms prior to the start of the pandemic.

They sampled blood from two-thirds of those patients that to check for coronavirus-specific antibodies, which would indicate the patients had previously been infected with the virus. All of the samples tested negative for those antibodies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The remaining one-third of those 92 patients had either died or refused to participate in antibody testing.

The negative results may not mean those people didn’t have COVID-19. Antibody levels do decrease over time, particularly after mild cases. But those patients were also hospitalized, suggesting a more severe illness.

“Antibodies do clear. The levels go down, but less so in cases of severe infection,” Marion Koopmans, a virologist on the WHO team, told the Wall Street Journal. “From what we know about serology, out of 92 cases you would at least have some positives.”

A study from researchers at Harvard University did find more people were visiting Wuhan hospitals in the latter half of 2019. The study authors used satellite imagery of the city to measure traffic to six city hospitals. They saw an uptick starting in August 2019, which peaked six months later. This timeline coincided with an increase in online search traffic for terms like “diarrhea” and “cough.”

The Wuhan market was not the origin of the pandemic

Wuhan lockdown
Security personnel wear masks walk in front of a field hospital in Wuhan on April 9, 2020.

Among the 41 coronavirus cases, Wuhan first reported, many were people who visited or worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.

But according to an April report, 13 of the 41 original cases had no link to the market – which suggests the market wasn’t the origin site of the pandemic.

The WHO team confirmed the virus didn’t make its initial jump from animals to humans at the Huanan market. Evidence suggests the virus was circulating elsewhere in Wuhan before the market outbreak happened, Liang Wannian, a member of China’s National Health Commission who assisted with the WHO investigation, said in a press conference Tuesday.

wuhan wet market
This wet market in Wuhan, China, pictured on January 21, 2020, was linked to one of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks.

A May investigation also led the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to rule the market out as the origin place of the outbreak. That’s because none of the animals there tested positive for the virus.

Most likely, the market was simply the site of an early superspreader event, with one sick person infecting an atypically large number of others. Superspreader events around the world have created clusters of infections that cropped up almost overnight. 

Research suggests the virus was in Italy in the fall of 2019

italy coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is transported by nurses inside a biological containment stretcher in the Da Procida Hospital in Salerno, Italy, April 8, 2020.

Italy recorded its first official coronavirus case in Lombardy on February 21, 2020. Yet a recent study found coronavirus antibodies in blood samples collected from 23 Italians in September 2019 and 27 in October 2019.

“Our results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 circulated in Italy earlier than the first official COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Lombardy, even long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities, casting new light on the onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors wrote. (SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name of the virus.)

A study conducted by Rome’s Department of Environment and Health supports that conclusion: Researchers found the coronavirus’ genetic material in sewage samples from Milan and Turin dating back to December 18, 2019.

italy coronavirus mask flag
A man walks past a billboard raising awareness about the new coronavirus that reads “All together, without fear,” in Naples, Italy on March 22, 2020.

Spain and France also found clues that the virus was circulating in 2019

In May, doctors at a Paris hospital discovered that patients they’d treated for pneumonia on December 27, 2019, had been sick with COVID-19. France didn’t record its first official case until January 24, however.

Barcelona, Spain, COVID-19 coronavirus August 31 2020
People in line for coronavirus tests in Barcelona, Spain, on August 31, 2020.

In Spain, meanwhile, researchers from the University of Barcelona found evidence of the coronavirus in city sewage samples collected in mid-January 2020, six weeks before the country’s first official case. 

Surprisingly, a sewage sample collected on March 12, 2019, also tested positive for traces of the coronavirus. But testing wastewater isn’t a perfect way to detect outbreaks, as Claire Crossan wrote in The Conversation. So it’s possible that the March sample had been contaminated during the study. 

By December 2019, the virus had reached the US

california beach pier coronavirus oceanside crowd masks
Few people wear masks on a pier in Oceanside, California, June 22, 2020.

Research in the US, too, offers evidence that the virus had gone global before humanity even knew it existed.

The US recorded its first coronavirus case on January 20, 2020. But according to one study, the virus had reached the Pacific Northwest at least a month earlier. Blood samples collected by the American Red Cross in nine states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, showed that some Americans had coronavirus antibodies as early as December 13, 2019.

Detroit tests for antibodies
A young resident of Detroit, Michigan, is tested for coronavirus antibodies on April 28, 2020.

Antibodies are an imperfect measure of the outbreak since some research suggests our immune systems can create antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus in response to some common colds. Antibody tests can also yield false positives.

Yet in the past, scientists successfully used retrospective antibody studies to trace the origins of SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both coronaviruses. Virologists found antibodies specific to SARS in civet cats, and antibodies specific to MERS in camels, which is how they determined those to be each virus’ animal progenitor.

Further examination of blood samples taken in 2019 could be the best way to find out when this pandemic really began.

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The coronavirus was circulating in Europe and China months before officials identified the outbreak in Wuhan, studies show

italy coronavirus mask flag
A man walks past a billboard that reads “All together, without fear,” in Naples, Italy, March 22, 2020.

  • December 31 marks the anniversary of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in Wuhan.
  • But a growing body of evidence suggest the virus was circulating in China and some European countries months before that.
  • In the US, meanwhile, a study found that some people had coronavirus antibodies in December 2019.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Almost exactly one year has passed since the World Health Organization announced the first confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Yet the virus’ origin and the true timeline of its worldwide spread remain a mystery. A growing body of evidence now suggests it was circulating months before the first cases captured global attention in Wuhan, China.

A study from Milan’s National Cancer Institute found that four of Italy’s coronavirus cases dated back to October 2019. Research from China shows people were getting sick in Wuhan in November and early December: One analysis, based on satellite images of Wuhan hospitals and online searches for COVID-19 symptoms in the area, suggested the virus may have started circulating there as early as late summer.

Although pinpointing the exact date of the virus’s first jump from animals to people is impossible without more data, many studies suggest the pandemic’s December anniversary is arbitrary.

“It is perfectly possible that the initial cross-species transmission event did not happen in or around Wuhan itself,” Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney, told The Guardian.

The virus was spreading in Wuhan before December

Wuhan hospital
Healthcare workers transport bodies outside a hospital in Wuhan, China, February 5, 2020.

Authorities in Wuhan initially told the WHO about a mysterious, new virus on December 31. But government records show China’s first coronavirus case happened on November 17, 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post.

According to the SCMP, Chinese medical experts pinpointed 60 coronaviruses cases from November and December by reanalyzing samples taken from patients seen during that time. That analysis showed that a 55-year-old from Hubei province (where Wuhan in located), was the first known case of COVID-19 in the world, though the disease hadn’t received that name yet.

Wuhan lockdown
Security personnel wear masks walk in front of a field hospital in Wuhan on April 9, 2020.

In another study, researchers at Harvard University used satellite imagery of Wuhan to measure traffic to six city hospitals. They saw an uptick starting in August 2019, which peaked six months later. This timeline coincided with an increase in online search traffic for terms like “diarrhea” and “cough,” the study authors found.

Even an investigation of the Wuhan market linked to many of the early cases has shown that it wasn’t the origin site of the pandemic. Among the 41 coronavirus cases Wuhan first reported, many were people who visited or worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. But according to a report in The Lancet, 13 of those original cases had no link to the market

wuhan wet market
This wet market in Wuhan, China, pictured on January 21, 2020, was linked to one of the earliest coronavirus outbreaks.

A May investigation also led the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to rule the market out as the origin place of the outbreak. That’s because none of the animals there tested positive for the virus.

Most likely, the market was simply the site of an early superspreader event, with one sick person infecting an atypically large number of others. Superspreader events around the world have created clusters of infections that cropped up almost overnight. 

Research suggests the virus was in Italy last fall

italy coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is transported by nurses inside a biological containment stretcher in the Da Procida Hospital in Salerno, Italy, April 8, 2020.

Italy recorded its first official coronavirus case in Lombardy on February 21. Yet a recent study found coronavirus antibodies in blood samples collected from 23 Italians in September and 27 in October.

“Our results indicate that SARS-CoV-2 circulated in Italy earlier than the first official COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Lombardy, even long before the first official reports from the Chinese authorities, casting new light on the onset and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors wrote. (SARS-CoV-2 is the clinical name of the virus.)

A study conducted by Rome’s Department of Environment and Health supports that conclusion: Researchers found the coronavirus’ genetic material in sewage samples from Milan and Turin dating back to December 18, 2019.

doctors coronavirus front line
Nurses embrace at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, March 15, 2020.

Spain and France also found clues that the virus was circulating in 2019

In May, doctors at a Paris hospital discovered that a patients they’d treated for pneumonia on December 27 had been sick with COVID-19. France didn’t record its first official case until January 24, however.

Barcelona, Spain, COVID-19 coronavirus August 31 2020
People in line for coronavirus tests in Barcelona, Spain, on August 31, 2020.

In Spain, meanwhile, researchers from the University of Barcelona found evidence of the coronavirus in city sewage samples collected in mid-January, six weeks before the country’s first official case. 

Surprisingly, a sewage sample collected on March 12, 2019 also tested positive for traces of the coronavirus. But testing wastewater isn’t a perfect way to detect outbreaks, as Claire Crossan wrote in The Conversation. So it’s possible that March sample had been contaminated during study. 

By December 2019, the virus had reached the US

california beach pier coronavirus oceanside crowd masks
Few people wear masks on a pier in Oceanside, California, June 22, 2020.

Research in the US, too, offers evidence that the virus had gone global before humanity even knew it existed.

The US recorded its first coronavirus case on January 20. But according to one study, the virus had reached the Pacific Northwest at least a month earlier. Blood samples collected by the American Red Cross in nine states, including California, Oregon, and Washington, showed that some Americans had coronavirus antibodies as early as December 13, 2019.

Detroit tests for antibodies
A young resident of Detroit, Michigan, is tested for coronavirus antibodies on April 28, 2020.

Antibodies are an imperfect measure of the outbreak, since some research suggests our immune systems can create antibodies that recognize the new coronavirus in response to some common colds. Antibody tests can also yield false positives.

Yet in the past, scientists successfully used retrospective antibody studies to trace the origins of SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) – both coronaviruses. Virologists found antibodies specific to SARS in civet cats, and antibodies specific to MERS in camels, which is how they determined those to be each virus’ animal progenitor.

Further examination of blood samples taken in 2019 could be the best way to find out when this pandemic really began.

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