Covid-19: Milestones of the worldwide pandemic

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As the death toll from Covid-19 surpasses one million, we look back at the beginnings of the pandemic and the key moments when the virus spread around the world.

January 9, 2020 – First reported death

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The virus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan

News of a “mystery virus” first surfaced in China, with a number of cases in Wuhan City. On January 11, official Chinese media reported that a 61-year-old man had died from the virus in the city two days earlier – making it the first known fatality. Then it was described as a mysterious viral pneumonia.

Later that month, Chinese scientists said the mysterious disease could be caused by a “new type of coronavirus”.

The outbreak prompted Singapore and Hong Kong to put in place screening procedures for travelers from Wuhan.

At the time, there were fears that the virus might be linked to Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a flu-like virus that originated in China and killed 774 people in 2003. There were also fears that the virus could quickly spread to hundreds of millions of people in China ready to travel across the country for the Chinese New Year.

However, it was still unclear how the disease was transmitted. Health officials said no cases of human-to-human transmission had been confirmed.

At the time, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was aware of the outbreak, was in contact with the Chinese government and was closely following the event.

January 28, 2020 – 100 deaths

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On Jan. 28, we reported that the death toll from the virus in China had risen to 106, with the number of infections almost doubling to more than 4,500 in one day.

By that time, the virus had spread across China and at least 16 countries around the world. Outside of China, around 50 cases have been confirmed, but no deaths have been reported.

Countries started sending planes to Wuhan to evacuate citizens. Meanwhile, the US urged its nationals to reconsider the trip to China.

Wuhan and its Hubei province were already effectively locked down, with strict transport restrictions in and out of the area. In some Chinese cities, wearing masks in public has also become mandatory. A 50-year-old man who traveled to Wuhan was the first to die of the virus in the capital, Beijing.

Health officials found the virus originated from illegally traded wildlife in a fish market in Wuhan and said it could actually spread between people. Chinese authorities said the virus could spread during the incubation period before symptoms like normal flu emerged, making it difficult to contain.

The outbreak was declared a global emergency by the WHO on January 30th.

February 10, 2020 – 1,000 deaths

According to a record by Johns Hopkins University in the US, the death toll exceeded 1,000 on February 10. As more and more countries saw their first cases, much of the world’s attention was still focused on China.

We reported that the virus claimed the lives of 97 people in a single day, the highest number of victims in any day at that time. The total number of deaths in China was now 908.

At the time, the WHO said the number of new cases in China was “stabilizing” – but warned it was too early to say whether the virus had peaked. She sent an international mission to China to coordinate a response to the outbreak.

The virus had now spread to at least 27 other countries and territories, but so far there have been only two deaths outside mainland China in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

By the end of February, hundreds of passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan, had tested positive for the virus. A British man who had been on board the ship was the first British citizen to die from the virus.

March 20 – 10,000 deaths

When the number of deaths from the virus topped 10,000 worldwide, concerns turned to Europe. The continent was responsible for about half of the world’s deaths at the time.

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The death toll in Italy – the worst hit country at the time in terms of reported deaths – reached 4,032 in total. A nationwide lockdown was imposed there earlier this month.

Meanwhile, China did not report any new domestic cases for the second straight day.

The number of confirmed cases around the world at the time was around 250,000, with more than 80,000 people believed to have recovered.

On March 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he believed the UK could turn the tide against the outbreak within the next 12 weeks. A nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 24th when the UK death toll reached 335.

  • Social distancing may be required for most of the year.
  • The already big changes in the UK might just be the beginning

April 9 – 100,000 deaths

The world was now very different than it was three months ago, and the global death toll was 100,000.

President Donald Trump himself warned the United States of up to 100,000 deaths, but denied that his administration was acting too slowly.

As of April 10, New York had more cases than any single country.

By the end of September, the US death toll would exceed 200,000.

In the meantime, Europe was preparing to spend the Easter weekend under lock and key.

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UK Government Global Death Comparison Chart

Boris Johnson, who tested positive for the virus the previous month, came out of intensive care on April 9. The UK death toll had hit nearly 9,000, with more than 70,000 confirmed cases, with London said to be the “epicenter” of the pandemic in the country.

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June 29 – 500,000 deaths

As the pandemic gained momentum, a new milestone of 500,000 deaths was reached.

At the same time, lockdown restrictions were eased in some parts of the world and people in the northern hemisphere focused on how they would spend their summer.

The EU announced that it would reopen its borders to citizens from different countries, including Australia and Canada, starting July 1, but not the US.

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Passport control at Larnaca Airport, Cyprus

At that point, half of the cases worldwide had been registered in the US and Europe, but Covid-19 was growing rapidly in America. The virus also hit South Asia and Africa, where it is not expected to peak until late July.

WHO warned that the worst could still be ahead and urged governments to take the right steps.

September 28 – One million deaths

On Monday, the world reached a million deaths from Covid-19. According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States, Brazil, and India now make up almost half of the total.

However, the death toll is believed to be far higher as many cases may not have been officially reported. In June, the BBC’s analysis of death certificates in 27 countries found an additional 130,000 deaths that weren’t in the daily headlines.

So what can we expect in the future? Currently, just over 5,000 coronavirus deaths are recorded worldwide every day, says BBC statistics director Robert Cuffe. If this pace continues, we can expect the daily number to exceed two million in just over six months, he adds.

Health officials have learned a lot about the virus since the pandemic began, but authorities say the rise in deaths will continue.

“We are not seeing any signs of the death rate slowing,” Nancy Baxter, epidemiologist and director of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, told the BBC. The world’s hopes now depend on the rapid development and spread of a coronavirus vaccine.

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