On January 10, 2020, Edward Holmes, member of Zhang Yongzhen’s team in Shanghai Public Health and Clinical Center, uploaded COVID-19 genome sequence to GenBank, and posted the news on virological.org.
According to the post, the research was done by Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, in collaboration with the Central Hospital of Wuhan, the Wuhan CDC, Chinese CDC, the University of Sydney, and a few other institutions.
Holmes also posts the news on his own Twitter account the same day.
Holmes later admits on a conference that Zhang’s team actually obtained the data on January 5, along with a few other teams, but the Chinese authorities ordered them not to release the data, until January 10, when pressure online made it impossible to hold the data any longer:
(Below is a partial transcript of the video at the end of the page)
Why did you and Professor Zhang not release the genome on January 8th, 2020 once GenBank had already processed it?
We got the sequence on 5th of January… over that week… I was trying to get Professor Zhang to release it, but they were under great pressure in China not to release any data.
Other groups had the sequence as well. And essentially there were instructions that there’s no publicizing of the outbreak, so we kept it to ourselves. We told the key people in China – people on the ground during the outbreak, but we were told not to release the data.
… As that week wore on, it became untenable to keep it to ourselves… and the pressure grew online for us to release it. So it got to a breaking point, I then persuaded Zhang to give me the sequence and I released it.”
(The audience mentioned January 8th, which might be imprecise according to the records.)
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