Review of past Manitoba pneumonia cases turns up no previously unknown COVID-19 cases, province says

The province of Manitoba says it may review past medical cases identified as pneumonia late last year, to determine if they were actually earlier, unknown cases of COVID-19.

Hospital in France that retested pneumonia samples found patient who had COVID-19 in December

An electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus which causes COVID-19. The province of Manitoba says it has retested intensive care unit cases of pneumonia, dating back to December 2019, and found no previously unidentified cases of COVID-19. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters)

The province of Manitoba says it has retested 18 past cases of pneumonia — and ruled out COVID-19 in all of them.

The retesting came ahead of a request from the World Health Organization, which is now second-guessing its earlier assessment of when — and where — the highly contagious virus first made the leap to humans.

The WHO reassessment comes after a report that COVID-19 actually emerged in December in France, weeks sooner than the disease was previously thought to have arrived in Europe.

A French hospital that retested old samples from pneumonia patients discovered that it treated a man who had COVID-19 as early as Dec. 27, nearly a month before the French government confirmed its first cases.

"This gives a whole new picture on everything," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told a UN briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, referring to the French reports.

Lindmeier urged countries to check records for pneumonia cases of unspecified origin in late 2019, saying that could give the world a "new and clearer picture" of the outbreak.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the province of Manitoba confirmed such reviews had already taken place here. Intensive care unit cases of pneumonia, dating back to December 2019, were retested.

There are currently no further plans to retest other past cases, at least until a test to detect the coronavirus antibodies is approved by Health Canada.

The spokesperson did not elaborate further.

As of Thursday afternoon, Canada had 64,835 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, with 28,985 of those cases listed as resolved or recovered. A CBC News tally of COVID-19-related deaths found 4,484 to date in Canada.

More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and more than 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 


Donna Carreiro

CBC Radio Current Affairs Producer

Donna Carreiro is an award-winning producer and journalist, who has worked for more than 28 years with CBC Manitoba. Prior to that, she was a print journalist for a daily newspaper and local magazines. She is drawn to stories of social justice (or injustice) that give a voice to those who most need one. She can be reached at

With files from Reuters


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