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    Study Suggests COVID-19 May Have Been in Europe Before Official Pandemic Declaration

    Recent research by Polish scientists hints at the possibility that the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infections might have been present in Europe before the officially recognized pandemic’s start in late 2019 and early 2020. This conclusion arises from an analysis of excess mortality rates across over 900 regions on the continent in 2019.

    Professor Przemysław Śleszyński from the Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization at the Polish Academy of Sciences, one of the study’s authors, emphasized that while the evidence is not conclusive, it provides a substantial empirical foundation for hypothesizing about the virus’s presence before the pandemic was officially acknowledged. The study, published in the journal “Population, Space and Place,” was a collaborative effort that also involved Dr. Sławomir Kurek from the University of the National Education Commission in Krakow, Dr. Robert Krzysztofik from the University of Silesia in Sosnowiec, and Dr. Jan Owsiński from the Systems Research Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

    The researchers’ analyses indicated that, in 44 European regions (out of the 918 studied), the mortality rate in the “pre-pandemic” period was significantly higher than in the corresponding period from 2016 to 2018. Notably, the French department of Territoire de Belfort exhibited a prolonged increase in average deaths—ranging from 148% to 151% of the values from previous years, with a peak value of 204% in the week between November 28 and December 4, 2019. This region was also among the first to report a COVID-19 outbreak and was severely affected by the virus in the winter and spring of 2020.

    Similar elevated excess mortality rates before the pandemic declaration were observed in Lombardy, Italy, and the metropolitan area of Madrid, Spain. These findings contribute to the ongoing discussions and research into the COVID-19 pandemic’s emergence and spread timeline.

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