How the new coronavirus spread

The virus has killed more than 27,000 people and infected almost 600,000 worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a pandemic over a new coronavirus which causes an illness known as COVID-19 that has spread to at least 170 countries and territories.

The disease has killed more than 27,000 people and infected some 600,000 according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

On December 31 last year, China alerted WHO to several cases of unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. The virus was unknown.

Several of those infected worked at the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which was shut down on January 1.

As health experts worked to identify the virus amid growing alarm, the number of infections exceeded 40.

On January 5, Chinese officials ruled out the possibility that this was a recurrence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus – an illness that originated in China and killed more than 770 people worldwide in 2002-2003.

On January 7, officials announced they had identified a new virus, according to the WHO. The novel virus was named 2019-nCoV and was identified as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold.

Coronaviruses are common and spread through being in proximity to an infected person and inhaling droplets generated when they cough or sneeze, or touching a surface where these droplets land and then touching one’s face or nose.

On January 11, China announced its first death from the virus, a 61-year-old man who had purchased goods from the seafood market. Treatment did not improve his symptoms after he was admitted to hospital and he died of heart failure on the evening of January 9

On January 13, the WHO reported a case in Thailand, the first outside of China, in a woman who had arrived from Wuhan.

On January 16, Japan’s health ministry reported a confirmed case in a man who had also visited Wuhan.

On January 17, as a second death was reported in Wuhan, health authorities in the US announced that three airports would start screening passengers arriving from the city.

Authorities in the United States, Nepal, France, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan confirmed cases over the following days.

On January 20, China reported a third death and more than 200 infections, with cases also reported outside Hubei province including in the capital Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Meanwhile, a Chinese expert on infectious diseases confirmed human-to-human transmission to state broadcaster CCTV, raising fears of a major outbreak as millions travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Asian countries ramped up measures to block the spread of the virus, introducing mandatory screenings at airports of all arrivals from high-risk areas of China.

On January 22, the death toll in China jumped to 17 with more than 550 infections. Many European airports stepped up checks on flights from Wuhan.

Wuhan was placed under effective quarantine on January 23 as air and rail departures were suspended.

The same measures were announced for two more cities in Hubei province: Xiantao and Chibi.

Beijing cancelled events for the Lunar New Year, starting on January 25, while officials reported the first death outside Hubei.

The WHO said later on January 23 that the outbreak did not yet constitute a public emergency of international concern and there was “no evidence” of the virus spreading between humans outside of China.


By January 24, the death toll in China stood at 26, with the government reporting more than 830 infections.

The number of cities under lockdown in Hubei rose to 13, affecting 41 million people.

Shanghai Disneyland shut down and other cities announced the closure of entertainment venues. Beijing said a section of the Great Wall and other famous landmarks would also be closed.

On January 25, travel restrictions were imposed on a further five cities in Hubei, taking the overall number of people affected to 56 million.

Hong Kong meanwhile declared a virus emergency, cancelled Lunar New Year celebrations and restricted links to mainland China.

On January 26, the death toll rose to 56, with almost 2,000 cases confirmed as travel restrictions were increased and Hong Kong closed its Disneyland and Ocean Park theme parks.

New cases were confirmed in the US, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

As of January 27, the death toll in China rose to 106, with 100 in Hubei province, authorities reported. Another 4,515 people in China were reported to be infected. There were 2,714 confirmed cases in Hubei province, up from 1,423 the day before.

On January 30, the WHO declared coronavirus a global emergency as the death toll in China jumped to 170, with 7,711 cases reported in the country, where the virus had spread to all 31 provinces.

India and the Philippines confirmed their first cases of the virus, with one infected patient in each country.

On January 31, the number of confirmed cases in China jumped to 9,809. Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom confirmed their first cases of the virus. 

On February 1, the death toll in China rose to 259, with 11,791 confirmed infections in the country, according to new figures released by the Chinese health authorities.

New cases were confirmed in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the US, the UAE and Vietnam.

As of February 2, the first death outside China, of a Chinese man from Wuhan, was reported in the Philippines.

The death toll in China rose to 304, with 14,380 infections reported.

On February 3, China reported 57 new deaths, bringing its death toll to at least 361. The number of cases rose to 17,205 across the country. 

On February 4, China said the death toll rose to 425 people and the number of infected people stood at 20,438 in the mainland. Hong Kong also reported one death, bringing global deaths to 427. The first case was confirmed in Belgium in a person who was repatriated from Wuhan. 

On February 5, more flights evacuating US citizens returned from Wuhan and the WHO reaffirmed there was “no known effective treatment” for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, China reported 490 deaths and 24,324 cases of infection.

On February 6, the death toll in mainland China rose to at least 563, with more than 28,000 cases confirmed. 

Meanwhile, authorities in Malaysia reported the country’s first known human-to-human transmission and the number of people infected in Europe reached 30.

On February 7, Li Wenliang, a doctor who was among the first to sound the alarm over the coronavirus, died, and Hong Kong introduced prison sentences for anyone breaching quarantine rules.

Mainland China confirmed the death toll had reached at least 636, with 31,161 cases of infection and Chinese researchers suggested the pangolin may have been one link in the chain of animal-human infections.

On February 8, a US citizen died in Wuhan.

A Japanese man in his 60s with a suspected coronavirus infection also died in hospital in Wuhan, Japan’s foreign ministry said. 

The death toll in China reached 722, with 34,546 confirmed infections.

On February 9, the death toll in China surpassed that of the 2002-03 SARS epidemic, with 811 deaths recorded and 37,198 infections.

An investigative team led by experts from the WHO departed for China.

As of February 10, China had 908 confirmed deaths and a total of 40,171 infections – 97 new deaths were reported following the deadliest day of the outbreak.

President Xi Jinping appeared in public for the first time since the epidemic began, visiting a hospital in Beijing and urging confidence in the battle against the virus.

On February 11, the WHO announced that the new coronavirus would be called “COVID-19”.

Meanwhile, deaths in China reached 1,016, with 42,638 infections recorded.


As of February 12, there were 175 people infected on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked at Yokohama, the Japanese health ministry said.

The death toll in mainland China hit 1,113, with 44,653 infections recorded.

On February 13, North Korea imposed a month-long quarantine on all foreign visitors and others suspected to have COVID-19, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The death toll in mainland China hit 1,300, with nearly 60,000 infections recorded. Meanwhile, Japan confirmed its first death from the virus.

On February 14, Egypt became the first country in Africa to report a case and France reported Europe’s first death from the virus.

China reported 121 more deaths, bringing to the total number across the mainland to nearly 1,400.

February 15 saw the death toll in mainland China surge past 1,500, with 66,492 infections confirmed in mainland China. 

Elsewhere, the US prepared to evacuate its citizens from a cruise ship quarantined at a Japanese dock.

Meanwhile, a February 3 speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, published by state media, indicated the government knew about the threat of the virus well before the public alarm was raised. 

CARD: Coronavirus timeline

On February 16, Taiwan recorded its first death of a taxi driver in his 60s due to the coronavirus.

Authorities reported that 1,665 people had died in mainland China with 68,500 cases of infection reported. 

As of February 17, there were 1,770 deaths reported in mainland China and 70,548 cases.

Japan confirmed 99 new cases of the virus on board the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship.

February 18 saw China’s daily infection figures drop below 2,000 for the first time since January, with the country’s health commission reporting 72,436 infections on the mainland and 1,868 deaths.

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  • Diiv says:

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