Last Monday in Geneva, the World Health Organisation's director general, Ethiopian Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, opened his routine news conference with the following observation: "A year ago today fewer than 1,500 cases of Covid-19 had been reported to the WHO including just 20 cases outside China. This week we expect to reach 100 million reported cases."
He might also have added that, in the last 12 months, Covid has killed two million people.
Even as the planet continues its seemingly never-ending battle with the unseen Covid Monster, however, one of the many unresolved riddles concerning SARS-CoV-2 is the fundamental question of just where, when and how this grisly pandemic began.
International public opinion, and indeed much scientific opinion, has little doubt that the first cases of the killer virus emerged in Wuhan City, China, in December 2019. That is, despite Chinese (and other) media claims in recent months that Covid-19 could have originated in Italy, Spain or the USA.
Over the next month, however, we may learn more. After many delays, some apparent obstruction and two weeks in quarantine, a 13- person panel of WHO experts were allowed out of their hotel in Wuhan last Thursday to finally begin a long-promised on-site investigation.
The WHO investigation, inevitably, faces problems. For a start, in this case, the horse has long bolted. For example, the WHO itself states that "a large proportion of the initial cases" have a direct link to the infamous Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan. Problem here is that the Huanan market was sanitised and closed on January 1 of last year. The scent is likely to have gone a bit cold in the meantime.
Then, too, how are in-depth interviews with the "first known human cases" going to go? How much information will the Chinese state authorities want to share with WHO investigators?
Generally speaking, China does not much appreciate delegations from UN bodies running around its territory.
The extent to which the Covid pandemic long ago became a political football of many colours was highlighted last week when new White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden was concerned over Covid "misinformation" from "some sources in China".
As for the notion that Italy might have been a kick-off point for Covid, not just in Europe but worldwide, this is not new.
That speculation dates back to last November when the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori (INT) - a Milan-based oncological institute - released research findings which seemed to suggest that Covid-19 might have been circulating in Italy as far back as October 2019, three months before Italy's first Covid patient was detected on February 21, 2020, in the small Lombardy town of Codogno.
Essentially, INT research claimed that 11.6pc of 959 healthy volunteers enrolled in a lung cancer screening trial between September 2019 and March 2020 had developed coronavirus antibodies well before February 2020.
One of the authors of the research paper, Professor Giovanni Apolone, director of INT, claimed that it proved that Covid was around in Italy "in a period that no one had imagined".
Prof Apolone furthermore made reference to the "heavy commercial ties" between Italy and China to explain how the virus had got into Italy in autumn 2019.
He did not, though, claim that Covid-19 had begun in Italy, originally of course Europe's first - and hardest-hit country.
This research seemed to confirm the suspicions of many Italian experts that Covid had been around in Italy but not detected long before February of last year.
An unusual surge in the numbers of cases of "heavy pneumonia" in the autumn of 2019 may have been wrongly diagnosed by family GPs unaware of Covid-19.
Furthermore, reports last June that traces of Covid-19 had been found in the routine analysis of sewage waters from the autumn 2019 period, primarily in hardest hit northern Italy, appeared to confirm the INT's findings.
Inevitably, this research was happily highlighted by Chinese media who pointed out that it proved that tracing the origin of the virus would be an ongoing process that could involve many countries.
The virus might have got to China from the West, rather than the other way around, they suggested. It might have got to the wet-market in Wuhan via frozen Norwegian salmon, for example.
Western scientific opinion appears to reject this Chinese speculation.
Commenting on the INT report, Professor Francois Balloux of University College London tweeted in November that "the bulk of the evidence points to the emergence of #SARSCoV2 in Oct/Nov 2019 in China, and a spread to Europe (Northern Italy) in Nov/Dec 2019."
Observations like that, however, did not stop alarmist comments, especially on Italian social media, of the "Covid Started in Italy, Not China" kind.
When the Sunday Independent asked the Italian Ministry of Health last week if it had been worried by such reports, my enquiry was met with a certain hilarity and a resounding "No".
Like many of its EU partners, Italy currently has more pressing Covid issues to deal with - above all, a vaccination programme that is behind schedule.
On that front, though, there was good news earlier this month when Covid-19 emergency commissioner Daniel Arcuri confirmed that phase 1 clinical trials of an Italian vaccine had been encouraging.
He said that Italy intends to invest in this vaccine, made by Italian firm ReiThera along with German company Leukoare and Belgium firm Univercells, even though it may not be ready until the end of the year.
Better late than never in the current climate of inequity in vaccine procurement.
Meanwhile, standby for news (or not) from Wuhan.
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