The ‘Ground Zero Man’

By stewartb:

It’s important to put the message out there, and strongly! The claims by BBC Scotland and certain opposition politicians in Scotland that the ‘Nike conference’ in Edinburgh was the source of Scotland’s coronavirus epidemic have been amplified in the wider media relentlessly for days.  Now that scientific evidence is available that there was no ‘ground zero’, will this get anything like the same coverage? Aye right!

On 9 June the University of Glasgow’s website reported on new research by its staff on Covid-19. The article states:

“Scientists sequencing the virus samples from the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Scotland have determined multiple introductions, mainly from European countries such as Italy, Austria and Spain – and showed that Scotland’s first introductions of the virus likely occurred prior to the country’s first confirmed case on March 1st.”

Based on analyses of full genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Emma Thomson, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, states “Our study confirms SARS-CoV-2 entered the Scottish population through at least 113 separate travel-related introductions, leading to multiple clusters of sustained community transmission. We identified viral lineages with no link to travel as early as three days after the first detection of infection, indicating earlier introduction to Scotland and community spread before the first detected case.”

These confirmed travel-associated introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into Scotland predated both UK travel restrictions and extensive restrictions in other European countries. The article also notes: “A dramatic shift from travel-associated to sustained community transmission was apparent from the 11th of March, 10 days after the first detected case.”

And travel-associated introductions around the same time were not restricted to Scotland. Other collaborative work involving the University of Edinburgh on large-scale virus genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 across the UK has also just been published.


It concludes:

  • “the UK epidemic comprises a very large number of importations due to inbound international travel. We detect 1,356 independently-introduced transmission lineages, however, we expect this number to be an under-estimate.”
  • “.. estimate that ≈34% of detected UK transmission lineages arrived via inbound travel from Spain, ≈29% from France, ≈14% from Italy, and ≈23% from other countries.”
  • based on statistical modelling, the researchers estimate that “80% of the importation events that give rise to detectable UK transmission lineages occurred between 28th February and 29th March 2020 (the remaining 20% of imports occurred before or after these dates).”

The paper notes that until the beginning of March, the UK received ≈1.75m inbound travellers per week. The estimated global prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 rose rapidly in March. Notably there was a period in mid-March when inbound travel to the UK was still substantial and coincided with high numbers of active cases elsewhere.

The graph below from the same paper shows the estimated total number of inbound travellers to UK per day (black line) and the estimated number of infectious cases worldwide (dashed red line):

Final comment

On 10 May the TuSC – by using common sense, by having some perspective, by putting things in context, whatever you want to call it – challenged the notion that one could attribute the origin (the ‘ground-zero’) of the coronavirus epidemic in Scotland to one identifiable individual, to one Nike employee.


Now comes the integrity test: who will acknowledge and amplify the scientific rebuttal? Who will come clean with the public – weazel words will not suffice: ‘we got it wrong – actually we had no evidence for our claim: there was no ‘ground zero’ in Edinburgh!