Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Chinese authorities said the first known patient of the new coronavirus in Wuhan had no connection to Huanan Seafood Market, which authorities have previously said is ground zero for COVID-19, according to Taiwanese press reports.
Eastern Broadcasting Co. and Liberty Times reported Thursday that China's first patient had shown symptoms of COVID-19 as early as Dec. 8. Chinese authorities have previously said the outbreak began on Dec. 31.
The statement from the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention published in Taiwanese news media marks the first time Chinese authorities have provided an alternative explanation of the source of the deadly outbreak.
Rumors have been circulating on Chinese social media that the first known patient did not get sick after making contact with the virus at the seafood market. The virus has been linked to Wuhan Institute of Virology, but the institute has denied the outbreak began among lab technicians, including a woman identified as Huang Yanling. Huang was rumored to be "patient zero."
According to Taiwanese press reports, the first patient, identified by the surname Chen, was a resident of the Wuchang District of Wuhan.
Chen had never visited the seafood market, and has been "cured and discharged," reports said.
Independent medical researchers have disputed official Chinese claims.
On Jan. 24, the Lancet, an independent medical journal, published a study showing Wuhan's first patient was not connected to the seafood market. A joint research team representing China's Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Huanan Agricultural College and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research have also said the seafood market is not the source of COVID-19.
"The research provides further evidence that Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was not the birthplace of the virus," China.org.cn reported Sunday.