Global spread of SARS COV-2


The coronavirus SARS COV-2 which is thought to have started in a Chinese seafood and poultry market late last year, has now spread around the world. Below is a timeline from news reports of key events around the world.

Timeline from news reports 

DEC 31

The government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of cases of pneumonia of an unknown cause. Days later, researchers in China identified a new virus that had infected dozens of people in Asia. At the time, there was no evidence that the virus was readily spreading human to human. Health officials in China said they were monitoring it to prevent the outbreak from developing into something more severe.

JAN 20

The first confirmed cases outside mainland China occurred in Japan, South Korea and Thailand, according to the W.H.O.’s first situation report. The first confirmed case in the United States came the next day in Washington State, where a man in his 30s developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan


JAN 23

The Chinese authorities closed off Wuhan by cancelling planes and trains leaving the city, and suspending buses, subways and ferries within it. At this point, at least 17 people had died and more than 570 others had been infected, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.

JAN 30

Amid thousands of new cases in China, a “public health emergency of international concern” was officially declared by the W.H.O. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that it would continue to work with the W.H.O. and other countries to protect public health, and the U.S. State Department warned travellers to avoid China.


The Trump administration suspended entry into the United States by any foreign nationals who had travelled to China in the past 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of American citizens or permanent residents. By this date, 213 people had died and nearly 9,800 had been infected worldwide.


A 44-year-old man in the Philippines died after being infected, officials said, the first death reported outside China. By this point, more than 360 people had died.


After a two-week trip to Southeast Asia, more than 3,600 passengers began a quarantine aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan. Officials started screening passengers, and the number of people who tested positive became the largest number of coronavirus cases outside China. By Feb. 13, the number stood at 218.

FEB 11

The W.H.O. proposed an official name for the disease the virus coronavirus causes: COVID-19, an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease 2019.


FEB 14

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist died on Feb. 14 at a hospital in Paris, in what was the first coronavirus death outside Asia, the authorities said. It was the fourth death from the virus outside mainland China, where about 1,500 people had died, most of them in Hubei Province.

FEB 21

Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive church in South Korea was linked to a surge of infections in the country. The number of confirmed cases in the country rose above 200, and more than 400 other church members reported potential symptoms, health officials said. As a result, the government shut down thousands of kindergartens, nursing homes and community centres, and put a stop to political rallies in the capital, Seoul. 

FEB 23

Europe faced its first major outbreak as the number of reported cases in Italy grew from fewer than five to more than 150. In the Lombardy region, officials locked down 10 towns after a cluster of cases suddenly emerged in Codogno, southeast of Milan. Schools closed and sporting and cultural events were cancelled.


FEB 24

Iran announced its first two coronavirus cases on Feb. 19. Less than a week later, the country said it had 61 coronavirus cases and 12 deaths, more than any other country at the time but China, and public health experts warned that Iran was a cause for worry — its borders are crossed each year by millions of religious pilgrims, migrant workers and others. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and one in Canada, have been traced back to Iran.

FEB 26

Brazilian health officials said that a 61-year-old São Paulo man, who had returned recently from a business trip to Italy, tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first known case in Latin America. Officials also began tracking down other passengers on the flight the man took to Brazil and others who had contact with him in recent days.


FEB. 28

Italy, where 800 people had been infected by Feb. 28, remained an area of concern. Cases in 14 other countries, including Northern Ireland and Wales, could be traced back to Italy. Germany had nearly 60 cases by Feb. 27, and France reported 57, more than triple the number from two days earlier. Both England and Switzerland reported additional cases, while Belarus, Estonia and Lithuania all reported their first infections.

FEB 28

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, confirmed its first case of coronavirus on Feb. 28. The patient was an Italian citizen who had returned to Lagos from Milan.

FEB 29

On Feb. 29, the authorities announced that a patient near Seattle had died from the coronavirus, in what was believed to be the first coronavirus death in the United States at the time. In fact, two people had died earlier, though their COVID-19 diagnoses were not discovered until months later.

As the number of global cases rose to nearly 87,000, the Trump administration issued its highest-level warning, known as a “do not travel” warning, for areas in Italy and South Korea most affected by the virus.


The C.D.C. lifted all federal restrictions on testing for the coronavirus on March 3, according to Vice President Mike Pence. The news came after the C.D.C.’s first attempt to produce a diagnostic test kit fell flat. By this point, the coronavirus had infected more than 90,000 around the globe and killed about 3,000, according to the W.H.O.



In a prime-time address from the Oval Office, President Trump said he would halt travellers from European countries other than Britain for 30 days, as the W.H.O. declared the coronavirus a pandemic and stock markets plunged further.



Mr. Trump officially declared a national emergency, and said he was making $50 billion in federal funds available to states and territories to combat the coronavirus. He also said he would give hospitals and doctors more flexibility to respond to the virus, including making it easier to treat people remotely.


The C.D.C. advised no gatherings of 50 or more people in the United States over the next eight weeks. The recommendation included weddings, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events and conferences. The following day, Mr. Trump advised citizens to avoid groups of more than 10. New York City’s public schools system, the nation’s largest with 1.1 million students, announced that it would close.



Several countries across Latin America imposed restrictions on their citizens to slow the spread of the virus. Venezuela announced a nationwide quarantine that began on March 17. Ecuador and Peru implemented countrywide lockdowns, while Colombia and Costa Rica closed their borders. However, Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, encouraged mass demonstrations by his supporters against his opponents in congress.



France imposed a nationwide lockdown, prohibiting gatherings of any size and postponing the second round its municipal elections. While residents were told to stay home, officials allowed people to go out for fresh air but warned that meeting a friend on the street or in a park would be punishable with a fine. By this time, France had more than 6,500 infections with more than 140 deaths, according to the W.H.O.

European leaders voted to close off at least 26 countries to nearly all visitors from the rest of the world for at least 30 days. The ban on nonessential travel from outside the bloc was the first coordinated response to the epidemic by the European Union.



China reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. The news signaled that an end to China’s epidemic could be in sight.

However, experts said the country would need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered over. And the announcement did not mean that China recorded no new coronavirus cases. Officials said that 34 new cases had been confirmed among people who had arrived in China from elsewhere.



Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked Britain down.

The lockdown closed all nonessential shops, barred meetings of more than two people, and required all people to stay in their homes except for trips for food or medicine. Those who disobey risked being fined by the police.



Officials announced that the Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be postponed for one year. Only three previous Games had been cancelled, all because of war: in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

India ordered a three-week lockdown order for its 1.3 billion citizens, and officials pledged to spend billions on medical supplies.Credit...Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

One day after the authorities halted all domestic flights, Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, declared a 21-day lockdown. While the number of reported cases in India was about 500, the prime minister pledged to spend about $2 billion on medical supplies, isolation rooms, ventilators and training for medical professionals.



The United States officially became the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with at least 81,321 confirmed infections and more than 1,000 deaths. This was more reported cases than in China, Italy or any other country at the time.



As many as 256 million Americans were ordered to stay home by officials in their state.

Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., issued orders requiring their residents to stay home. Similar orders went into effect for Kansas and North Carolina. Other states had previously put strict measures in place. The new orders meant that least 265 million Americans were being urged to stay home.



By April 2, the pandemic had sickened more than one million people in 171 countries across six continents, killing at least 51,000.

In just a few weeks, the pandemic put nearly 10 million Americans out of work, including a staggering 6.6 million people who applied for unemployment benefits in the last week of March. The speed and scale of the job losses was without precedent: Until March, the worst week for unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982.


Ten days after going public with his coronavirus diagnosis, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was moved into intensive care. The decision was a precaution, according to the British government, who also said he had been in good spirits. Mr. Johnson had also asked the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to deputise for him “where necessary.” He was released on April 12.



At least two dozen companies have announced vaccine programs aimed at ending the pandemic, including Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech firm that said it would begin human trials in Australia in mid-May. Johnson & Johnson plans to start clinical trials in September, Moderna began a clinical trial for its vaccine in March, and Inovio Pharmaceuticals injected its trial vaccine into the first volunteers in April.



The International Monetary Fund warned that the global economy was headed for its worst downturn since the Great Depression. The organisation predicted the world economy would contract by 3 percent in 2020, a reversal from its forecast early this year that the world economy would grow by 3.3 percent.


Chile became the first country to issue “immunity cards” to those who had recovered from the coronavirus. Card holders would be allowed to return to work, despite concerns about the possible risk of transmission.


By April 26, the coronavirus pandemic had killed more than 200,000 people and sickened more than 2.8 million worldwide, according to data collected by The New York Times. The actual toll is higher by an unknown degree, and will remain so for some time.


Scientists at Oxford University appeared to have a head start on a vaccine for the new coronavirus, having proved in a trial last year that a similar inoculation against an earlier coronavirus was harmless to humans. They then embarked on tests hoping to show by the end of May that the vaccine also works. There was at least one promising sign: Scientists at a National Institutes of Health laboratory in Montana inoculated six rhesus macaque monkeys with single doses of the Oxford vaccine. The animals were then exposed to heavy quantities of the virus that is causing the pandemic. More than 28 days later, all six were healthy.


American Airlines and Delta Air Lines said they would require all passengers and flight attendants to wear a face covering. Lufthansa Group — which owns Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines — as well as JetBlue and Frontier Airlines had made similar announcements.


French doctors said that they had discovered that a patient treated for pneumonia in late December had the coronavirus. If the diagnosis is verified, it would suggest that the virus appeared in Europe nearly a month earlier than previously understood and days before Chinese authorities first reported the new illness to the World Health Organisation. The first report of an infection in Europe was on Jan. 24 in France.

MAY 10

In a national address, Boris Johnson said that Britain would impose a mandatory quarantine on travellers arriving in the county by air in order to dodge a new wave of infections. He also urged the British public to “stay alert” and said that people could exercise outside as much as they wanted, sunbathe in parks, and return to work, if they could not work from home. Mr. Johnson’s blueprint to reopen Britain was met with confusion and criticism.

MAY 13

Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the W. H. O.’s health emergencies program, said the virus may become “just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.” He also tamped down expectations that the invention of a vaccine would provide a quick and complete end to the global crisis.

MAY 17

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy after the United States and China, fell into a recession for the first time since 2015. Its economy shrank by an annualised rate of 3.4 percent in the first three months of the year. 

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, also fell into a recession. Its economy suffered its worst contraction since the 2008 global financial crisis, shrinking by 2.2 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.

MAY 19

report from the World Food Programme finds that the number of people facing food insecurity in East Africa and the Horn of Africa over the next three months could double because of the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic. An estimated 20 million people already faced acute food insecurity in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Eritrea before the crisis. 

Refugees are one of the most affected groups. 

The World Bank Group announces its emergency support has reached 100 low- and middle-income countries, which is home to 70% of the world’s population. This initial assistance — part of its pledge to make available $160 billion in grants and financial support over 15 months — is the largest and fastest crisis response in the bank's history. 

According to a study published in the academic journal Nature Climate Change, daily carbon emissions have dropped by 17% this year, through April, as compared to last year.

MAY 21

The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 5 million globally. According to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, five countries account for 56% of coronavirus cases on the African continent: South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Nigeria. The countries with the highest number of cases per 100,000 people include Djibouti, São Tomé and Príncipe, Gabon, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau.

MAY 22

Brazil surpasses Russia as the country with the second highest number of cases, following the United States. It is reported that South America is becoming "a new epicentre" of the pandemic.


An estimated 80 million children under the age of 1 are at risk of diseases including diphtheria, measles, and polio because the pandemic is disrupting routine vaccination efforts, according to data collected by WHO, UNICEFGavi, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute. Vaccination efforts have been disrupted for reasons including the reluctance or inability of parents to leave their homes to take children to be vaccinated, health workers facing movement restrictions or redeployment to focus on COVID-19, and a lack of personal protective equipment. There are also delays in the transport of vaccines.


study finds that the use of hydroxychloroquine among hospital patients with COVID-19 is linked to increased rates of death and heart arrhythmias.

MAY 23

The first death from COVID-19 is reported in the Gaza Strip. 

Indigenous people in Brazil are dying from COVID-19 at twice the rate of the rest of the country's population, CNN reports.



MAY 25 

WHO puts a temporary pause on its trials of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, following an observational study of the drug and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised, published in The Lancet on May 22. The study found that patients that took the drug had increased rates of death and heart arrhythmias. 


MAY 28

The chief executive officer of Pfizer, says the distribution of vaccines could be challenging in Africa because of the lack of widespread infrastructure to deliver them at a cold temperature.

"I'm sure that we will come to the Western world with this vaccine first, but as a second wave, we are working on making sure that we can develop and manufacture products that are not requiring a different, extreme temperature with different technologies," Bourla says during a press conference.

In terms of manufacturing, there are not enough glass vials globally to meet the expected demand for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine around the world, according to Pascal Soriot, chief executive officer of AstraZeneca. Typically, vaccines are produced in single-dose vials. Soriot says the company is exploring the feasibility of delivering multidose vials.


MAY 29

U.S. President Donald Trump says during a press conference the country is “terminating” its relationship with WHO and “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” He says the move comes because WHO failed to make requested reforms.


MAY 30 

Brazil reports a record 33,274 new cases of COVID-19.


A vaccine developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and China National Biotec Group Co. may be available by the end of the year, according to a report.



Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan grew by 684% in May, according to a press release from the International Rescue Committee. The country's Ministry of Public Health only has the capacity to test 2,000 cases per day, but it receives between 10,000 and 20,000 samples daily, suggesting high levels of undetected cases. The country has over 15,700 confirmed cases.


Cases in Brazil surpass 500,000.


JUNE 3  

India experiences a record increase: 8,909 new cases in one day. 


The Lancet retracts its study on COVID-19 patients using hydroxychloroquine that found the drug increased death rates and increased heartbeat irregularities. The retraction was made, at the request of its authors, because the medical journal could “no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources."


The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention rolls out a new initiative to ramp up the coronavirus response across the continent. The Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing in Africa aims to support the testing of 10 million people on the continent over four months, deploy 1 million community health workers, and train 100,000 health care workers. It also plans to launch a procurement mechanism next week that allows countries to request diagnostic kits through the Africa CDC at a fixed price, rather than having to seek them out in global markets.


Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance launches the Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines, which is a financing instrument to incentivise manufacturers to produce enough vaccine doses and ensure access for developing countries. It has an initial goal of raising $2 billion.



WHO updates its guidance on the use of masks. It advises that medical masks be worn by all people working in clinical areas of a health facility, not just those caring for patients with COVID-19; it advises that people over 60, or those with underlying conditions, in areas with community transmission should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible; and it advises governments to encourage its citizens to wear masks in places of widespread transmission where physical distancing is difficult, such as public transport or in shops. The agency also says that fabric masks should consist of at least three layers of different material, depending on the material used.


The death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 400,000 globally.


The highest number of new cases in a single day is reported: 136,000. About 75% of those cases come from 10 countries, predominantly in the Americas and South Asia.



South Africa releases the first set of data examining the risk of death for people living with tuberculosis or HIV who contract COVID-19. The data, based on patients in Western Cape province, finds that those living with HIV have a risk of death that is 2.75 times higher, whereas those living with TB have a risk that is 2.5 times higher.


The number of cases on the African continent surpasses 200,000. It took 98 days to reach 100,000 cases in Africa and only 18 additional days to reach 200,000 cases, according to WHO.


JUNE 11  

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpasses 2 million.

June 12 — According to a paper from the Institute of Labour Economics in Bonn, Germany, masks can reduce the daily spread of new infections by 40%. 


Beijing shuts down its largest fruit and vegetable market following the positive COVID-19 tests of 45 people at the market. This occurs after more than 50 days without a case in the Chinese capital.


It took over two months for the world to reach the initial 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — but more than 100,000 new cases have been reported almost every day of the past two weeks, Tedros says during a press briefing. Nearly 75% of these new cases have come from 10 countries, which are mostly in the Americas and South Asia.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revokes authorisation for the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, following several clinical trials suggesting that the drug is ineffective.

JUNE 16 

Initial clinical trial results show that a steroid called dexamethasone can reduce mortality by about one-third for COVID-19 patients on ventilators. This is the first drug shown to save the lives of people requiring oxygen or ventilator support. The drug, which has been in use since the 1960s, is off-patent and affordable in most countries, according to WHO.

Following 24 days with no new cases, New Zealand reports that two women who recently arrived in the country from the U.K. have tested positive for COVID-19.


JUNE 18 

study published in Nature Medicine finds that the levels of antibodies in recovered COVID-19 patients declines significantly two to three months after infection, which calls into question the length of immunity that survivors have against contracting the virus again. 

Lower-income countries in Asia will “barely grow” in 2020, the Asian Development Bank says as it revises its growth forecast for the region to 0.1%, down from April’s forecast of 2.2%. This would be the slowest growth the region has experienced since 1961, according to the bank.


Over 150,00 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO in one day — the highest number in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

JUNE 19 

COVID-19 cases in Brazil reach over 1 million. The country reports over 54,000 cases in one day.



Preliminary data from a U.K. trial that shows that the steroid dexamethasone has the potential to save the lives of critically ill COVID-19 patients, but the next challenge is increasing production and distribution of the drug, Demand has already surged for the drug, but it is an inexpensive drug and many manufacturers already make it globally. . 

JUNE 23 

report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation finds that 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported disadvantaged students during school shutdowns from COVID-19. 


A pledging summit hosted by the European Commission and Global Citizen raises €6.15 billion ($6.91 billion) for the development of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, as well as to ensure their equitable access. This includes €4.9 billion in loans and guarantees from the European Investment Bank, in partnership with the European Commission, as well as €485 million pledged by European Union member states. Forty governments participate in the summit.

Brazil signs an agreement to locally produce AstraZeneca's experimental vaccine, which is considered the most advanced of the candidates for a COVID-19 vaccine in terms of development. 


JUNE 28 

Globally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpass 10 million — only six days after the global caseload hit 9 million. Confirmed deaths surpass 500,000.

JUNE 29 

The International Monetary Fund projects that real GDP will contract by 3.2% in sub-Saharan Africa, which is double the contraction that the fund estimated in April. This is the sharpest economic contraction in the region since the 1970s. 


The United States has bought almost all stocks of Gilead’s remdesivir until September. 


JUNE 30 

The first cases of COVID-19 are confirmed among asylum-seekers in a migrant camp near Mexico’s northern border. The camp is in the city of Matamoros and hosts 2,000 migrants.



A WHO survey finds that 73 countries are at risk of stock-outs of antiretroviral medicines as a result of the pandemic.


study published in The Lancet finds that only 5% of Spain’s population has developed antibodies to the new coronavirus, which challenges the idea that societies can achieve herd immunity if a large number of people are infected.