Researchers have identified the first person known to have contracted coronavirus in the UK, with the disease found on February 21 this year.
The woman, who was also the first person to die of Covid-19, is the earliest confirmed patient to have had the disease in this country.
It was previously thought a man from Surrey was the UK’s Patient Zero.
But now researchers have identified the earliest sufferer as a 75-year-old woman from Nottinghamshire, who tested positive on February 21.
She is also believed to have been the first woman in the UK to die after contracting the disease, reports The Star.
A University of Nottingham research team analysed 2,000 routine respiratory samples taken from patients at the Queen’s Medical Centre between January and March.
They report: “Patient one in this study is, to the best of our knowledge, the earliest described community-acquired case of SARS-CoV-2 in the UK, admitted to hospital care on February 21.
“She was also the first UK Covid-19 death, preceding the earliest known death by two days.”
It had previously been thought the first transmission of coronavirus in the country had happened on February 28.
Other research, published in May, revealed that France’s first case was back in December – not long after the outbreak in Wuhan.
Professor Jonathan Ball, one of the study authors, said there was “widespread community transmission of coronavirus” in Nottingham back in early February.
He told The BBC: “Had the diagnostic criteria for Covid-19 been widened earlier to include patients with compatible symptoms but no travel history, it is likely that earlier imported infections would have been detected, which could have led to an earlier lockdown and lower deaths.
“However, the capacity for testing available nationally was not sufficient at the time to process the volume of testing required.
“In order to prepare for any future pandemic such as this, the UK urgently needs to invest in and expand diagnostic capacity within NHS and PHE diagnostic laboratory services.”