The Jerusalem Post wrote in Jan 2021
A prominent scientist from the city of Wuhan in China, who has received the title "the world's first COVID-19 patient," has been missing for a year now.
According to various reports, Huang Yanling was the first person in the world to experience the symptoms of coronavirus, currently raging throughout the world. She was the first one to be diagnosed with the disease towards the end of 2019, before we even knew what it was.
The virology researcher has been missing for over a year. During that time, many theories have surfaced about the reasons for her disappearance.
The Daily Mirror was only slightly more skeptical
The researcher, who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is thought to have been the first to contract Covid in autumn 2019, before it was officially acknowledged.
The claims suggested a link between the pandemic and the institute - which houses zoonotic bat diseases - and sparked fears the bug had been accidentally leaked during experiments.
State officials and lab agents were quick to rubbish the reports at the time and remove them from the internet.
They claimed Huang was safe and had simply moved jobs, with a Chinese news agency even claiming to have spoken her new employer.
But China is yet to produce the scientist physically despite numerous requests from the US State Department to stop hiding information.
A post claiming to be from the scientist later appeared on the WeChat messaging service telling colleagues she was alive and claiming the reports were false.
It read: "To my teachers and fellow students, how long no speak. I am Huang Yanling, still alive. If you receive any email [regarding the Covid rumour], please say it’s not true."
But since then Huang appears to have disappeared from social media and there is no longer any mention of her name on the institute's website.
About the same time The Sun titled
Photo emerges ‘showing patient zero at Wuhan lab’ three years after bosses claimed she left and never to returned [sic]
However, the photo clearly had been uncovered almost a year before; it's found for instance in this April 2020 YouTube video that has over 2M views (and which also says "most people believe her to be patient zero").
So it's a bit unclear to me what the sudden discovery in Jan 2021 was. I'm guessing slow news day combined maybe with the Trump administration's release on Jan 15 of some similar claims (which did not name her specifically though.) On the other hand, [the US[ NIH was interested in her whereabouts, although not for any stated reason besides her "apparent disappearance".
So, is Huang Yanling really the first person diagnosed or infected with Covid-19?