Last update: April 27th, 2020.
What is COVID-19?
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China, which has 11 million residents. It was named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and is responsible for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause varying levels of disease, from common colds to severe fatal diseases. Usually found in animals, some can infect humans and transmit between humans.
In the past two decades coronavirus outbreaks have caused global concern, including one in 2003 with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and more recently in 2012 with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
How COVID-19 is spread?
The evidence so far indicates that the virus is spread from person to person through small respiratory droplets. When a person coughs or sneezes, these droplets can also land on nearby surfaces.
There is also evidence that the COVID-19 virus can last on surfaces ―especially plastic or metal, but also cardboard― for up to 3 days. This is why advice to avoid catching COVID-19 has focused on handwashing with soap, the use of alcohol-based hand sanitising gels, face mask use in the general population and keeping a distance from people who are symptomatic.
COVID-19 can cause symptoms very similar to the flu, such as fever and a dry cough (the two most common symptoms), fatigue, aches and pains. As the pandemic spread around the world, other symptoms such as a loss of sense of or taste have emerged.
In summary, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms that may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, are:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Loss of taste or smell
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
Severe cases can lead to serious respiratory disease, and even pneumonia. Those most at risk are the elderly, or people with underlying medical issues, such as heart problems or diabetes. According to global numbers, 14.8% of people over 80 years old, infected with the virus, have died from it, compared with 0.4% in people aged 40-49%.
Despite most deaths still being in older people, it is clear that many young people with the virus can still develop serious infection that requires hospitalisation.
Moreover, since COVID-19 is a new coronavirus, that means it is likely no-one has natural immunity to it. Coronaviruses such as MERS-CoV and SARS are on watchlists of infections with pandemic potential, along with Ebola and influenza. Since it began, COVID-19 has spread worldwide, leading the WHO to label it a pandemic and a public health emergency of international concern.
Based on available evidence, COVID-19 appears to have a fatality rate of 4.4% (much lower than 10% for SARS and around 30% for MERS-CoV). However, yet this is not a reason to relax containment and control measures.
Furthermore, COVID-19 is more contagious than either SARS or MERS-CoV, and crucially, can be spread undetected. This is because many people with COVID-19 are either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms, so they may not be adequately isolating themselves, and spreading the infection. Most countries around the world are now on lockdown to avoid spreading the virus any further, and allowing a flattening of the curve meaning avoiding cases from spiking and overwhelming health systems, something that surely will last for a long period of time, since vaccines can take a long time to develop ―no matter how quickly researchers race through the initial phase of identifying candidate vaccines and getting their vaccines into clinical testing―.
Dec. 31, 2019 — Chinese authorities inform World Health Organization’s (WHO) China office of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, with unknown cause.
Jan. 1 — Officials close the Huanan seafood market, suspected to be the source of the mystery disease, as some of the patients presenting with the pneumonia-like illness were dealers or vendors at the market.
Jan. 3 — China reports a total of 44 suspected patients with the mystery disease.
Jan. 7 — China identifies new coronavirus ―2019-nCoV―, as cause of the outbreak.
Jan. 13 — Thailand reports first imported case of 2019-nCoV: the patient, a 61-year-old woman from Wuhan, did not report visiting the Huanan seafood market.
Jan. 16 — Japan reports another imported case of 2019-nCoV: the Chinese national, a man in his 30s, also did not report visiting the Huanan seafood market.
Jan. 17 — Thailand confirms the second imported case of 2019-nCoV in the country, bringing the total exported cases from China to three.
Jan. 20 — South Korea confirms its first case of 2019-nCoV: the patient did not report visiting markets in Wuhan. U.S. also reports first imported case of 2019-nCoV: a 35-year-old who had returned from Wuhan, China, five days earlier.
Jan. 24 — Japan and U.S. each confirm second 2019-nCoV cases, while Nepal confirms the first case of 2019-nCoV in the country.
Jan. 25 — Australia confirms the first case of 2019-nCoV in the continent, with health authorities announcing three more cases later in the day. France confirms three cases (the first in Europe). Malaysia also reports the first four cases, Canada reports its first case.
Jan. 27 — Cambodia, Germany and Sri Lanka each confirm their first 2019-nCoV cases.
Jan. 31 — The U.K., Russia, Sweden, and Spain confirm their first 2019-nCoV cases.
Feb. 4 — Belgium reports its first case of 2019-nCoV: the patient was one of the nine people repatriated from Wuhan over the weekend.
Feb. 14 — Egypt reports its first case of COVID-19 (this is the first case confirmed on the African continent).
Feb. 19 — Iran reports first COVID-19 cases.
Feb. 21 — Lebanon confirms its first case of COVID-19: a woman who arrived from Iran and is now quarantined at a hospital in Beirut. In addition, Israel also confirms its first case of COVID-19: a person who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan’s coast.
Feb. 24 — Kuwait, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Oman report first cases of COVID-19.
Feb. 25 — Algeria reports its first case of COVID-19: an Italian adult, who arrived in the country on Feb. 17 (this is the second confirmed case on the African continent). Besides, Switzerland, Croatia, and Austria report their first cases.
Feb. 26 — Brazil confirms its first case of COVID-19, marking the first case in South America (cases of the virus have now been confirmed on every continent except Antarctica).
Greece, Georgia, North Macedonia, Norway, Romania and Pakistan report their first cases of COVID-19.
Feb. 27 — Denmark, Estonia, San Marino, and the Netherlands report first cases of the virus.
Feb. 28 — Nigeria, New Zealand, Belarus, Mexico, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Ireland, and Iceland report their first COVID-19 cases.
Feb. 29 — Ecuador, Qatar, Monaco, and Luxembourg report first cases of COVID-19.
March 1 — Czech Republic, Iceland, and Armenia report their first cases of COVID-19. The Dominican Republic also reports the first confirmed case of COVID-19: a 62-year-old Italian man who arrived in the country on Feb. 22 (this is the first confirmed case in the Caribbean).
March 2 — Indonesia, Senegal, Portugal, Andora, Latvia, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia report their first cases of COVID-19.
March 3 — Ukraine, Argentina, and Chile report their first cases of COVID-19.
March 4 — Poland reports its first case of COVID-19.
March 5 — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, South Africa, and Palestine report their first cases of COVID-19.
March 6 — Slovakia, Bhutan, Peru, Costa Rica, Columbia, Cameroon, and Togo report first cases of COVID-19.
March 7 — Malta, Moldova, Paraguay, and the Maldives report first cases of COVID-19.
March 8 — Bulgaria and Bangladesh report first cases of COVID-19.
March 9 — Albania, Cyprus, Burkina Faso, and Panama report first cases of COVID-19.
March 10 — Brunei Darussalam, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bolivia, Jamaica, and Mongolia report first cases of COVID-19.
March 11 — Turkey, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Guyana, Honduras, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines confirm first cases of COVID-19.
March 12 — The Pacific confirms its first case of COVID-19. The patient is Maina Sage, a French Polynesian politician who recently returned from Paris.
March 13 — Kazakhstan, Sudan, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Uruguay, Guatemala, St. Lucia, Suriname, and Mauritania confirm first cases of COVID-19.
March 14 — Namibia, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Seychelles, and Eswatini confirm first cases of COVID-19.
March 15 — Uzbekistan and the Bahamas report first cases of COVID-19.
March 16 — Somalia, Benin, Liberia, and Tanzania report first cases of COVID-19.
March 17 — Montenegro, Barbados, Gambia, and Montserrat report first cases of COVID-19.
March 18 — Kyrgyzstan, Djibouti, Zambia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua report first cases of COVID-19.
March 19 — Mauritius, Fiji, Chad, Niger, and Haiti report first cases of COVID-19. Besides, for the first time since the outbreak began, Wuhan reports no new cases.
March 20 — Papua New Guinea, Cape Verde, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar report first cases of COVID-19.
March 21 — East Timor, Angola, and Eritrea report first cases of COVID-19.
March 22 — Uganda, Grenada, Mozambique, Dominica, and Syria report first cases of COVID-19.
March 23 — Myanmar and Belize report first cases of COVID-19.
March 24 — Libya and Laos report first cases of COVID-19.
March 25 — Saint Kitts and Nevis, Guinea-Bissau, British Virgin Islands, and Mali report first cases of COVID-19.
March 26 — Anguilla reports first cases of COVID-19. Besides, cases in the U.S. surpass those in China and Italy — making it the new epicenter of the pandemic.
March 30 — Botswana reports its first cases of COVID-19.
March 31 — Burundi and Sierra Leone report first cases of COVID-19.
April 2 — Malawi records its first cases of COVID-19. Cases of COVID-19 surpass 1 million.
April 5 — South Sudan reports its first case of COVID-19: a United Nations Mission in South Sudan staff member.
April 10 — Yemen reports its first case of COVID-19. Besides, the United States records over 2,000 deaths in one day (the highest death rate recorded for any country during the pandemic).
April 15 — The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 2 million.
April 22 — A Palestinian woman from Syria tests positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon — the first case identified in the country’s refugee camps.
April 23 — The first patients are injected with the first human COVID-19 vaccine trial in Europe.
April 24 — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 passes 50,000.
April 25 — The global death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 200,000.
April 27 — The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 3 million.
May 9 — The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 4 million globally.