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China raises doubts about COVID-19 origin as Wuhan marks 1 year since symptoms were detected

One year since COVID symptoms found in Wuhan
One year after coronavirus symptoms were first detected, CBS News returns to Wuhan 03:27

One year ago Tuesday, the symptoms of the new coronavirus were first detected in Wuhan, China, according to a published study. 

In the city of 11 million, the world's first epicenter of coronavirus, harsh lockdowns have given way to a hardcore nightlife. At Wuhan's central market, a food vendor told CBS News that business is back and he's proud and happy.

That sense of optimism is shared by school children arriving to see a new government-sanctioned exhibition called "People First, Lives First," held in what used to be Wuhan's largest makeshift hospital. It hails President Xi Jinping as "heroic" and the "strong leadership" of China's Communist Party.

It also highlights front-line health care workers but mentions of those who died are hard to find.

Beijing, having declared victory in its war on COVID-19, has now opened new fronts, trying to pin its origin on other countries including the U.S., Italy and India.

"Although China was the first to report cases," said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian just last week, "it doesn't necessarily mean that the virus originated in China."

The Wuhan Institute of Virology is believed by some to be the origin of COVID-19. All CBS News' requests for access over the months have been turned down and Chinese doctors said they were busy or barred from speaking.

Dr. Linfa Wang, who has studied the origins of the virus, told CBS News foreign correspondent Ramy Inocencio, "origination is difficult" when asked what the chances were that the coronavirus did not originate in China.

"But let's face it, human outbreaks started in Wuhan," Wang said.

Wuhan native Tao Yu who works at a state-owned enterprise is still one of countless people looking for answers. 

At 69, Tao's father died from COVID-19 in February. The government sent condolences and about $600 as compensation.

"It felt hollow," Tao said. "I still don't know where the virus came from. If you ask me who to blame, I don't know."

One year later, so many questions are still unanswered. Wang said there are three major knowledge gaps: where COVID-19 originated, why some people have very long infections and how long antibodies protect people from reinfection.

Everyone CBS News spoke to in Wuhan did have an answer on what protects best: wearing a mask.

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