The Edition


COVID19: Twelve key milestones in a year like no other

26 November 2020, MVT 14:05
Following is a brief timeline of COVID19 in the year 2020 and the undeniable change sparked by the unprecedented circumstances that followed. Pictured above is a health professional procuring a sample from a Chinese national in China mainland, to be tested for the novel coronavirus earlier this year. PHOTO: AFP
26 November 2020, MVT 14:05

From the first cases in central China to hopes of a vaccine a year later, here are a dozen key developments in the spread and subsequent fight against Covid-19.

People wearing face masks arrive at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan to take one of the first trains leaving the city in China's central Hubei province early on April 8, 2020. - Thousands of relieved citizens streamed out of China's Wuhan on April 8 after authorities lifted months of lockdown at the coronavirus epicentre, offering some hope to the world despite record deaths in Europe and the United States. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP)

First Death

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alerted to a cluster of pneumonia cases "of unknown cause" in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

On January 7, 2020 a new coronavirus is identified. Four days later China announces its first death in Wuhan from an illness which will be named Covid-19.

Wuhan cut off

On January 23 Wuhan is placed under quarantine and cut off from the world. Countries start to repatriate their citizens from China.

On February 15 France reports the first death confirmed outside Asia, a Chinese tourist.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquaters in Geneva. - US President Donald Trump announced on April 14, 2020, a suspension of US funding to the World Health Organization because he said it had covered up the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak in China before it spread around the world. Trump told a press conference he was instructing his administration to halt funding while "a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization's role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus." (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)


By March 6 more than 100,000 cases have been recorded around the world.

Northern Italy is locked down, quickly followed by the rest of the country.

On March 11, the WHO says Covid-19 is a pandemic.

Global stock markets crash.

Governments and central banks roll out massive economic support measures.

Europe in lockdown

Spain (March 14) and France (March 17) order their populations to stay at home.

Germany and Britain say people should avoid all social contact.

Syrian dancer and choreographer Yara al-Hasbani performs a dance on the empty Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel tower in Paris on April 22, 2020, on the 37th day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). - Yara al-Hasbani was putting the finishing touches to her make-up for a performance of "Romeo and Juliet" in Damascus when she found out her father had been tortured to death. His body was returned to the family 23 days after he was arrested by Syrian authorities, and when she began receiving threats herself, she knew she couldn't stay in Damascus. Hasbani, her mother and two siblings came to France three years ago after they were granted refugee visas in Europe. First arrived in Rochefort, a scenic port town in the southwest of France, she moved to Paris in 2016, a city where she found it difficult to settle at first. But her first visit to the famous Palais Garnier theatre opened the emotional floodgates and made her create the performance "Unstoppable," a 12-minute solo retracing her journey to exile. Her dance may be silent, she said once, but she'll carry on "raising her voice so people don't forget." (Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP)

The 27-nation European Union closes its external borders.

Olympics postponed

On March 24, the Tokyo summer Olympics scheduled for July 2020 are put off to the next year.

The next day the United Nations warns that the pandemic is "threatening the whole of humanity".

Half of the world confined

Lockdown measures are enforced all around the world.

A photograph taken on March 5, 2020 shows the white-tiled area surrounding the Kaaba, inside Mecca's Grand Mosque, empty of worshippers. - Saudi Arabia today emptied Islam's holiest site for sterilisation over fears of the new coronavirus, an unprecedented move after the kingdom suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage. (Photo by ABDEL GHANI BASHIR / AFP)

On April 2 more than 3.9 billion people -- half of the world's population -- are forced or called on to confine themselves, according to an AFP count. The same day the threshold of one million cases is crossed.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is infected and ends up in intensive care.

Economy on its knees

On April 29 the battered US aircraft manufacturer Boeing slashes 16,000 jobs.

Many other groups including airlines and car manufacturers follow.

Hydroxychloroquine row

Backed by US President Donald Trump as a potential treatment for Covid-19, malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is judged to have no benefit in a study published in The Lancet on May 22.

US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thanks atleast in part to the president's downplaying of the infection's severity, hundreds of supporters lined up for Donald Trump's political rallies, saying the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a big, packed arena would not keep them from hearing the president's campaign message. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

The study is retracted due to problems with the data, but on June 5, a British research group also concludes that the medicine did not help Covid-19 patients at all.

Surge in Latin America

By June 7 the death toll reaches more than 400,000.

The surge of cases and deaths in Latin America causes concern.

Brazil becomes the country with the second biggest death toll after the United States.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro calls it a "little flu", before himself becoming infected. Fellow Covid-19 sceptic Donald Trump will also get it.

Masks and anti-masks

With cases on the increase, several European countries make mask-wearing compulsory on public transport, in schools and shops and on the street, starting with the Czech Republic on March 18.

The WHO, in its updated advice issued on 5 June, recommends that the general public wear non-medical fabric masks where there is known or suspected widespread transmission and where physical distancing is not possible. Further, it states that vulnerable people (aged over 60 or with underlying health risks) and people with any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 as well as caregivers and healthcare workers, should wear medical masks (defined as surgical or procedure masks). PHOTO: MIHAARU

Anti-mask demonstrations erupt across the world, particularly in Berlin, London, Paris and Rome.

The second wave

The grim milestone of a million deaths worldwide is passed on September 28.

In October, infections start to spiral in Europe, where many countries order new lockdowns and curfews.

The pandemic also picks up pace in the US, where its handling has become a key issue in the presidential campaign.

Vaccine Hopes

On November 9, US biotech giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech unveil positive results of a vaccine, as the number of official cases passes 50 million.

Pfizer announced early November that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate has performed extremely well in their clinical trials, a reassuring sign that the months of investment and breakneck work on vaccines to protect people against the virus was going to pay off. PHOTO: PFIZER

A week later a similar announcement comes from US firm Moderna, with an AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine following fast behind. Authorities hope to begin vaccination campaigns at the end of the year in the US and parts of Europe.

Paris, France | AFP