A British grandfather who fell sick over Christmas is now thought to be the first to have died from coronavirus outside China — with his family blasting a Beijing “cover-up” for allowing it to silently spread, according to a report.
Peter Attwood, 84, was initially listed as having died of heart failure and pneumonia because doctors could not work out what caused the cough and fever that started in late December, The Sun said.
Some lung tissue was saved for further tests — and last week his family was told that coronavirus was detected, with his cause of death changed to “COVID-19 infection and bronchopneumonia.”
His death on January 30 makes him now the first known victim of the contagion from outside China, where authorities had only flagged an emerging health scare on Dec. 31, after Attwood was already sick. The previous known first, a 44-year-old man who died in the Philippines on Feb. 1, had traveled from the Chinese epicenter of Wuhan.
Attwood, however, had not traveled outside the UK — suggesting the pandemic was spreading on the British Isles long before it was first detected.
“The virus was obviously running rampant in this country back in December, or maybe even earlier,” his daughter, Jane Buckland, told The Sun. “China was covering it up from the beginning.
“If China hadn’t lied to the rest of the world and kept this hidden for so long, it could have saved countless lives,” she insisted.
“People have been talking about a cover-up but we don’t know the scale of it. My father could still be here if we’d known about the threat of this horrible virus earlier.”
Buckland believes other family members also had the infection in December — and fears she may have been the one who passed it to him.
“I had all the COVID symptoms — dry cough, fever, aches and pains, diarrhea — before Christmas, but no one knew what it was,” she said. “I went to Christmas parties and was hugging and kissing everyone, even people I didn’t know. That’s what people do at Christmas.
“If we’d known we were possibly spreading a deadly virus, things could have been very different. It’s no wonder so many people in this country ended up dying from it,” she said.
British politicians also slammed China for the apparent coverup.
“China’s secrecy over the emergence of COVID has put at risk millions,” MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Sun.
Former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith also called for a full investigation into the handling of the pandemic by both China and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“This shows that there has been a major cover up in China over this from the word go,” he told the Daily Mail.
“Once they knew there was a problem why didn’t they go public with it?” he asked of both Beijing and the WHO.
A UK Government spokesman insisted to The Sun, however, that “there is no evidence there was sustained transmission within the community in January 2020.”
“We acted swiftly to curb coronavirus,” the spokesman said.