Timeline: How COVID-19, world’s biggest health crisis in modern times, changed everything | Inquirer News

Timeline: How COVID-19, world’s biggest health crisis in modern times, changed everything

By: - Reporter / @DYGalvezINQ
/ 09:00 AM January 01, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) started as a mysterious virus that caused pneumonia in some cases in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Few had expected it would eventually disrupt the natural course of life globally, paralyzing economies, devastating communities and keeping billions of people confined to their homes.

As 2020 closes, the virus SARS Cov2, which causes COVID-19, has so far infected 81 million people worldwide and killed 1.7 million. In the Philippines, Department of Health (DOH) data as of Dec. 29 showed 471,526 cases with 439,016 recoveries and 9,162 deaths.


INQUIRER.net looks back at how COVID-19 emerged from being a nameless disease to being the biggest health crisis the world had to face in modern history.


Dec. 31, 2019

China reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) a “cluster” of pneumonia cases “of unknown cause” in Wuhan, a highly developed city in the province of Hubei.

Jan. 7, 2019

Chinese officials announced they had identified the new virus, calling it 2019-nCoV.

Jan. 11

China announced the first death in Wuhan due to novel coronavirus.


China gave the WHO the virus’ genetic sequence.

Jan. 13

A Chinese woman has been quarantined in Thailand with a mysterious variant of coronavirus, the first time it has been detected outside China.

Jan. 16

Japan confirmed its first case of coronavirus infection.

Jan. 20

South Korea reported its first case of infection.

Jan. 23

Authorities in Wuhan announced the lockdown of the city. All public transportation and businesses were suspended and residents were required to stay indoors to stop transmission.

Jan. 24

Two cases of infection were confirmed in France, the first in Europe.

Jan. 30

The WHO declared COVID-19 to be “a public health emergency of international concern.”

Feb. 1

The Philippines reported the first coronavirus death outside of China.

The case, which was the second reported in the country, involved a 44-year old Chinese man who was admitted to San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila for pneumonia after suffering from fever, cough and sore throat, which were symptoms of the new disease.

The Chinese man was companion of the 38-year-old Chinese woman who was earlier confirmed as the first case of infection in the Philippines.

Both patients are from Wuhan and arrived in the Philippines last January 21.

Feb. 4

Japan has quarantined a cruise ship carrying 3,711 people and was testing those on board for the virus after a passenger, who had already disembarked from the ship, was found to be infected in Hong Kong.

March 11

WHO declared a pandemic.

March 16

The Philippines government imposes a strict lockdown measure, now known as enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which required people to stay at home, leading to closures of restaurants, bars, malls, theatres, gyms and factories that are deemed nonessential. The closure of many establishments became permanent, stripping millions of people of their jobs.

March 18

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebrevesus announced that the first vaccine trial for the virus has begun, 60 days after its genetic sequencing had been shared by China.

He called it an “an incredible achievement.”

WHO and partners also organized a study to compare untested treatments throughout several countries.

“This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need to show which treatments are the most effective. We have called this study the SOLIDARITY Trial,” the WHO chief said.

Feb. 11

WHO christened the new disease as COVID-19.

The UN health agency said that “co” stands for “corona”, “vi” for “virus” and “d” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year it was first identified on Dec. 31.

WHO had earlier given the virus the temporary name of “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease”.

Feb. 15

France reported the first confirmed death outside Asia.

Feb. 26

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy and Iran surpasses that of China. The countries emerge as new epicenters of the disease.

March 1

Global COVID-19 cases reach close to 800,000, with infections in nearly 100 countries.

March 19

Italy’s death toll overtook China’s. Russia also recorded its first death. The virus has spread to more than 170 countries.

April 2

Global cases shot past 1 million as deaths soared in the United States and western Europe.

April 8

China lifted the lockdown in Wuhan.

April 10

COVID-19 deaths globally reach 100,000 and confirmed cases shoot past 1.6 million.

May 1

COVID-19 cases reach 3.2 million with 232,000 deaths.

May 4

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “enormous evidence” showed the new coronavirus originated in a lab in China. US President Donald Trump had used the term “China virus” in reference to the virus’ origin and a still unproven claim that China produced the virus and unleashed it.

Pompeo’s comments came as Europe and parts of the United States prepared to cautiously lift virus lockdowns as signs emerged that the pandemic was ebbing and governments look to restart their battered economies.

Aug. 1

COVID-19 cases across the globe exceed 17.4 million, with 670,000 deaths.

Aug. 11

Russia became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against SARS Cov2. It was developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Questions surrounded its efficacy and safety, however.

Sept. 1

COVID-19 cases across the globe hit 25.3 million

Sept. 29

The global death toll from COVID-19 reached 1 million, with United States recording the most fatalities, followed by Brazil and India.

Nov. 9

Pfizer and BioNTech announced its vaccine to be 90% effective in preventing SARS Cov2 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials.

Protection in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first, according to initial findings.

Nov. 16

American biotechnology firm Moderna announced that initial phase 3 trial data showed that its coronavirus vaccine is more than 94% effective against SARS Cov2.

Nov. 18

Pfizer and BioNTech said that a completed study of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine showed it was 95 percent effective.

Nov. 23

The coronavirus vaccine developed by drug firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University has shown 70 percent effectivity in trials involving 23,000 people.

The results ranged between 62 and 90 percent efficacy depending on vaccine dosage.

Dec. 1

Over 62 million people have been afflicted with COVID-19, 1.4 million of whom died of the disease.

Dec. 8

United Kingdom is the first country to start mass vaccination against SARS Cov2, using Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine.

A 90-year-old grandmother became the world’s first person to receive a fully-tested COVID-19 shot administered by a Filipino nurse.

Dec. 19

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorization.

As 2020 draws to a close, coronavirus continued to be relentless in its spread.

On Dec. 14, the Public Health England (PHE) identified a “new variant” of SARS-CoV-2 across the south and east of England, which is potentially more infectious.

It was named “VUI-202012/01” – also known as B.1.1.7  – which means the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020.

The discovery of a new variant came as China exerted efforts to change the virus’ storyline and show that it did not originate from its shores.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also imposed stricter restrictions in the UK after scientists, according to him, found that the new variant “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the earlier strain.”

Despite clarifications by the WHO and the US that there was no hard evidence yet to prove that the UK variant was more contagious, many countries, including the Philippines, have decided to enforce travel bans and restrictions.

This was after several cases of infection caused by the UK coronavirus variant have been confirmed in different countries across the world, including in the United States where a case of infection caused by the new virus variant was found in Colorado.

As countries take steps to slow the spread of coronavirus or stop it, especially with the emergence of a new variant, the world holds its breath for what’s in store for it in 2021.

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People are likely to usher in the New Year with masks and social distancing as part of their daily lives. Everyone is hopeful, though, that normalcy, or the days when people can freely walk outside their homes, hug and kiss their loved ones without fear of infection, would still return.


For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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