Leo Varadkar says it's possible coronavirus was in Ireland last year
"We should not assume that it came here from Italy in late February."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said it is possible that coronavirus was in Ireland last year or in January of this year.
Varadkar was speaking in the Dáil, where he commented on the news that retrospective testing in France had discovered the virus was in the country last year.
"It is noteworthy that initial experts suggest from retrospective testing, that the virus was circulating in France as far back as December last year," Varadkar said.
He noted that this was before there was a test available for the virus or before it even had a name.
"In some ways this is not surprising, France is well connected to China with dozens of flights every day," he said.
"And, Ireland is well connected to France. Indeed, it is possible that the virus was already in Ireland last year or in January this year.
"We should not assume that it came here from Italy in late February just because that was the first confirmed case."
Varadkar added that further research and retrospective testing will provide more clarity on the matter.
Earlier this week, it was revealed a French hospital had retested old samples from pneumonia patients and discovered it had treated a man with coronavirus as early as 27 December last year.
24 samples from patients who had tested negative for flu were retested and one of them was discovered to have had coronavirus.
Dr Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals, said each sample was retested several times to ensure there were no mistakes.