Bricklayer hospitalised after Rome holiday in September 2019 says he was Britain’s first Covid case


A bricklayer who ‘nearly died’ after a family trip to Rome in September 2019 believes he was Britain’s Covid patient zero.

Brian Stoodley, 67, was hospitalised with a mystery illness and suffered many of the common symptoms of the virus, which was previously believed to have originated in Wuhan in December.

Brian had a shortness of breath, high temperatures and a severe cough which left him gasping for oxygen in hospital and bed-bound for a number of weeks.

Brian Stoodley (circled) believes he contracted coronavirus months before the first official cases in China in December last year. The bricklayer is pictured on the holiday to Rome with his son-in-law Steve Mitchel, and his daughters Jodie and Erica

Susannah Ford, 53, was believed to be the UK’s first known case of the virus after catching it during a skiing holiday to Austria in early January.

But Brian, from Dorchester in Dorset, told The Sun: ‘I thought I was on my way out. I felt as if I was nearly dying, it was that bad.’

He had spent the holiday in many of the Italian capital’s tourist hotspots with his daughters Jodie and Erica and son-in-law Steve Mitchel, visiting sites such as the Vatican and the Colosseum, where he said he mingled with Chinese tourists.

A week after returning home, he was admitted to Dorset County Hospital where doctors were baffled with his symptoms, which later spread to his children and grandchildren.

Brian had a severe shortness of breath, high temperatures and a severe cough which left him gasping for oxygen in hospital

Brian had a severe shortness of breath, high temperatures and a severe cough which left him gasping for oxygen in hospital

He suffered many of the common symptoms of the virus, which was previously believed to have originated in Wuhan in December

He suffered many of the common symptoms of the virus, which was previously believed to have originated in Wuhan in December

He was tested for a number of illnesses and viruses but they all came back negative, leaving doctors stumped.

The revelation comes after the National Cancer Institute of Milan claimed coronavirus was circulating in Italy in September 2019, months before China’s timeline of the pandemic.

Brian says he is ‘certain’ he contracted the virus which China has been accused of covering up.

He was tested for a number of illnesses and viruses but they all came back negative, leaving doctors stumped

He was tested for a number of illnesses and viruses but they all came back negative, leaving doctors stumped

He said: ‘I couldn’t breathe by myself and it felt like every last inch of energy had been drained out of me.’

‘But the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and I spent weeks with the worst cough of my life stuck in bed unable to move.’

Brian added that he otherwise considers himself fit and healthy, having been a brickie his whole life. 

Doctors still have not told him what he was suffering from.

His eldest daughter Emma, 44, said she experienced similar symptoms just weeks later and felt like she was ‘hit by a train’. 

Susannah Ford, 53, was believed to be the UK's first known case of the virus after catching it during a skiing holiday to Austria in early January

Susannah Ford, 53, was believed to be the UK’s first known case of the virus after catching it during a skiing holiday to Austria in early January

She was stuck in bed for ten days and said she has never felt anything like it before, suffering from a cough and a high temperature.

China’s official timeline vs New evidence

Official timeline 

Dec 8 – Earliest date that China has acknowledged an infection

Dec 31 – China first reported ‘pneumonia of unknown cause’ to the World Health Organisation

Jan 1 – Wuhan seafood market closed for disinfection

Jan 11 – China reported its first death 

Jan 23 – Wuhan locked down

Jan 31 – WHO declared ‘outbreak of international concern’ as China admitted having thousands of cases

Feb 23 – Italy reports cluster of cases in first major outbreak not linked to travellers from China 

New evidence 

Sep – Blood samples taken in Milan found to contain Covid antibodies  

Oct-Dec – Hundreds of ‘pneumonia’ cases near Milan may be linked to virus, that scientists are investigating

Nov – Sewage samples taken in Florianópolis, Brazil, suggest virus was present and are being investigated  

Nov 17 – Leaked documents suggest case detected in China on this date

Dec 1 – Chinese researchers report an infection on this date in a peer-reviewed study, but it has not been acknowledged by Beijing 

Dec 18 – Sewage samples taken in Milan and Turin suggest virus was circulating in the cities 

Jan 2020 – Sewage samples from Barcelona suggest virus was in the city

The mother of four had not travelled to Italy but spent time with him upon his return home.

Connor Reed is the first known Briton to catch coronavirus while he was working in Wuhan last year.

The 26-year-old student survived the virus but was found dead in mysterious circumstances in his university room last month.  

The uncertainty surrounding the origin of the virus was deepened on Sunday when Italy said they found evidence it was in circulation much before China had claimed. 

Scientists in Milan claim to have found antibodies caused by the coronavirus in blood samples taken from cancer patients in September 2019, five months before the country’s first case of domestic transmission was documented.  

China has been repeatedly accused of covering up early cases of the virus, allowing it to spread internationally and balloon into a pandemic that has infected more than 54million people and killed at least 1.3million. 

China first reported that a ‘pneumonia of unknown cause’ was spreading on December 31, 2019, saying it was centered around a seafood market in Wuhan.

But Chinese medics then came forward to say they had been warning about a new kind of respiratory infection for weeks before that, prompting Beijing to change the timeline – saying the first infection actually occurred on December 8.

A study produced by Chinese researchers but not acknowledged by the government then gave the date of December 1, while leaked documents suggested the first cases were actually detected on November 17. 

But none of those cases have been confirmed as ‘patient zero’ – the first person to be infected by the virus – leaving Beijing with questions to answer over how, when and where the pandemic started, amid accusations of a cover-up.

The Italian study is far from the first to suggest that coronavirus made it to Europe much earlier than previously thought.

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