A timeline of the coronavirus pandemic, from the first cases in China in December 2019 to 300 million vaccine doses delivered (and counting)
Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2270361-covid-19-the-story-of-a-pandemic/#ixzz72J1Fnup5
A year ago this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared covid-19 a pandemic. Since the first case of infection with this new coronavirus was reported in China in December 2019, SARS-CoV-2, as we now know it to be called, has killed over 2.5 million people and infected at least 116 million. Beginning as an unexplained, pneumonia-like illness, first detected in China’s Wuhan province, it has since spread to almost every country, bringing life across most of the world to a near-standstill for the last year. World leaders became ill, entire countries were locked down to prevent the spread of infection and international travel ceased.
As most governments struggled to contain the virus, scientists were rushing to identify and find treatments that worked against covid-19. As infections surged worldwide, new, highly transmissible variants of the virus were identified and are circulating ever further.
With many vaccines now approved, over 300 million doses have been administered, and over 65 million people are now fully vaccinated. But this represents less than 1 per cent of the world’s population, and while the vaccine offers a glimmer of hope for a return to normal, there is still a long way to go. As countries, including the UK, are preparing to lift restrictions, we look back at a year that changed the world forever.
New Scientist reports on mysterious illness
New Scientist reports for the first time about 59 cases of a mysterious pneumonia-like illness in China, linked to a wet market in Wuhan. The affected individuals became ill between 12 and 29 December 2019.
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A novel coronavirus is identified
WHO reports Chinese authorities have identified a completely novel coronavirus as the cause of the illness and sequenced its genome, less than a month since the first person became ill.
The world records its first coronavirus death
China reports that a 61-year-old man has become the first known victim of the novel coronavirus. He was a regular customer at Wuhan’s wet market.
Wuhan is put under a strict lockdown by the Chinese government. All travel in and out of the city is prohibited.
The coronavirus makes it to Europe
The first case of coronavirus in Europe is confirmed in France. The UK reports its first case on 31 January.
The disease is named
WHO names the disease caused by the coronavirus “covid-19” or” coronavirus disease 2019”, after the year the first cases were reported.
First death recorded outside Asia
In France, a Chinese tourist dies from covid-19 in Paris.
The Middle East begins to bear the brunt
Iran records its first covid-19 deaths and imposes emergency measures in the affected province. These are the first deaths reported in the Middle East.
Europe’s lockdowns begin
Italy records its first coronavirus death and 50,000 people from 10 towns in the north of the country enter lockdown.
The US records its first death
The first death in the US is reported. There have been 22 cases detected in the country so far.
UK’s first coronavirus death
The UK records its first death, a woman in her 70s. 115 cases have now been confirmed in the UK.
The start of nationwide lockdowns
Italy becomes the first European country to impose a nationwide lockdown. Sports events are postponed, schools and universities closed and over 60 million people ordered to stay at home.
WHO declares covid-19 a pandemic
Tedros Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, says “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity. We have therefore made the assessment that covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic.”
US declares a state of emergency
President Trump declares a national emergency in the US.
A potential vaccine offers hope
Europe closes its borders. The world’s first human trial of a covid-19 vaccine, an mRNA vaccine developed by US biotechnology company Moderna, begins.
The UK enters its first lockdown
Following other European nations, the UK enters a nationwide lockdown. Shortly afterwards, UK prime minister Boris Johnson tests positive for the coronavirus.
One million cases
Global cases reach one million as the US records the most daily deaths from covid-19 of any country so far. New York City is particularly hard-hit, with hospitals in the city at capacity
China begins to return to normal
Lockdown is lifted in Wuhan, China, where the first coronavirus cases were detected.
Europe begins to ease up
After nearly two months, Italy starts to ease its coronavirus restrictions. As infection rates slow, measures begin to relax in other parts of Europe, too.
The situation in the Americas gets worse
In Latin America, and especially in Brazil, cases continue to grow. By the end of the month, daily infections in the region overtake those in both Europe and the US as more than 2 million cases are reported.
US deaths reach 100,000
Covid-19 deaths in the US pass 100,000, making America the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths recorded so far.
Cases begin to rise again
WHO warns cases are starting to rise again in Europe, as a result of the easing of restrictions in many countries.
Masks become mandatory in England
With WHO acknowledging evidence that the coronavirus can spread indoors via air particles, it becomes mandatory to wear masks in shops in England, bringing it in line with Scotland and other European nations including Italy and Germany.
Russia approves Sputnik V vaccine
Russia announces approval of its Sputnik V covid-19 vaccine before it has undergone large-scale human trials, causing concern among international researchers.
Deaths reach one million
The world reaches a tragic milestone: 1 million deaths caused by covid-19.
Ireland becomes the first European country to impose a second nationwide lockdown. England follows two weeks later.
Vaccine trials prove successful
Pfizer and BioNTech announce that results from phase III trials show their mRNA vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic covid-19.
Moderna’s mRNA vaccine is shown to be effective.
The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca’s viral vector-based vaccine is also said to have done well in trials.
Vaccines get their first approvals
The UK government becomes the first in the world to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Mass vaccination begins
The UK’s mass-vaccination programme begins as over 50 hospitals in the UK start administering the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to people aged over 80.
A new variant of the coronavirus, possibly associated with a faster spread, is identified in the county of Kent in the UK.
Parts of Africa may have to wait years
A WHO report suggests large parts of Africa may not receive covid-19 vaccines for several years.
UK cases surge
UK hospitals risk being overwhelmed by surging cases, with evidence suggesting this is partly due to the variant first detected in Kent, which spreads faster.
2 million deaths
2 million people are reported to have died from covid-19 since the pandemic began.
UK deaths reach 100,000
The UK joins America, India, Brazil and Mexico in reaching more than 100,000 deaths from covid-19. It is the first European country to do so.
Vaccinations ramp up (unequally)
Over 7 million vaccine doses have been administered in the UK, compared to just 25 doses in the west African state of Guinea.
More than 216 million people have now received their first dose worldwide.
Staying ahead of the virus
6 people in the UK test positive for the P.1 coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil. Five of those six had either returned or had close contact with people returning from Brazil. One of several variants, along with the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 that may be more transmissible, vaccine developers are already modifying existing vaccines to stay ahead of the virus.