Trade data doesn’t show we knew about Covid in 2018

18 May 2021
What was claimed

People knew about Covid-19 in 2018.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Confusion arose due to the fact that a trade export website changed the name of a number of medical diagnostic test exports to “COVID-19 Diagnostic Test”.

An Instagram post shows a screenshot of data on Covid-19 test exports dating from 2018, suggesting the disease was known about before it was reported to have emerged in late 2019.

This is not true and the confusion arises due to the fact that the website changed the name of a number of medical diagnostic test exports to “COVID-19 Diagnostic Test” once the pandemic had begun. We’ve written about this before.

The data comes from the World Integrated Trade Solutions (WITS) website, run by the World Bank.

The World Bank told Reuters that prior to April 2020, these products with the code number 902780 were labelled in terms which did not reference Covid, but in April 2020 the name was changed to “COVID-19 Diagnostic Test instruments and apparatus”. The World Bank said this was done because of “ the newfound importance of these products in diagnosing and treating COVID-19.”

It added that the name was later changed back to “Medical Diagnostic Test instruments and apparatus” due to these sorts of misinterpretations and “to make it clear that these were products that predated COVID-19.”

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because while the screenshot is real, the suggestion that this shows knowledge of Covid-19 prior to 2019 is false.

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