PARIS, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The first suspected cases of COVID-19 infection in France could date back to Nov. 16 last year, some nine weeks earlier than the official record of the country's first confirmed cases, a hospital in eastern France said Thursday.
"Doctor Michel Schmitt, head of the medical imaging department at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Colmar, has reviewed 2,456 chest scans performed between Nov. 1 and April 30, for all reasons (cardiac, pulmonary, traumatic, tumor pathologies)," said the hospital in a press release.
The typical scans compatible with COVID-19 infection have been also reviewed in a second then a third reading by two other experienced radiologists. According to this retrospective study, the first cases of contamination with COVID-19 were thus identified from Nov. 16 in this hospital, it said.
Albert Schweitzer hospital added that it has launched a collaboration with France's National Center for Scientific Research to start an epidemiological exploitation of these results.
Before this announcement, the first case of COVID-19 infection in east France was officially identified in late February. It involved a 36-year-old man who returned from a trip to Lombardy, then hotspot of the epidemic in Italy.
The first COVID-19 infection cases officially recorded in France were on Jan. 24, 2020 relating to individuals who had recently arrived or returned from China.
France on Thursday registered 178 new deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, taking the tally to 25,987. As hospitalization data continued to slow, the government said on Thursday that the country would start to unwind the nearly-two-month anti-coronavirus lockdown from Monday.