The deadly coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the globe, with no end in sight.
China has been accused of downplaying the potential severity of the respiratory disease in the early stages and mishandling the contagion crisis.
Here is a timeline of the key events so far and what to expect next.
The first case is detected
December 12, 2019
This is when Chinese authorities say the first case of the mystery virus was identified in Wuhan — however, it would be weeks before they made this information public.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei province, is a major transport hub.
The new type of viral pneumonia saw symptoms like high fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
Investigation into disease confirmed
December 31, 2019
Health authorities in Wuhan confirm they are investigating 27 cases of viral pneumonia, after rumours spread on social media suggesting the outbreak was linked to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
Chinese state media reports that the cause of the disease remained “unclear” as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it had been alerted to a “cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause” in Wuhan.
The virus did not match any other known virus, sparking concern as to how it would affect people who were infected.
Seafood market identified and shut
January 1, 2020
The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated, is shuttered and put under investigation.
It will later emerge that the “wet market” sells meat alongside wildlife — some of it illegal.
The list, according to news agency AFP, includes wolf cubs, hedgehogs, civets, crocodiles, giant salamanders and peacocks, among 112 exotic items.
Media reports that “clean-up efforts” at the seafood market are completed surface a couple of days later, with city officials saying that “no obvious human-to-human transmission had been seen and no medical staff had been infected”.
In the coming days, the number of confirmed cases rises to more than 40.
Coronavirus declared and named 2019-nCoV
Chinese authorities confirm they have identified the novel virus, named 2019-nCoV.
According to the WHO, the new virus is a new strain of coronavirus. The source is still unknown, but most likely comes from animals.
A coronavirus, which usually causes respiratory illnesses, refers to a family of viruses that includes the common cold and gastrointestinal infections.
But it also includes much more severe diseases, like Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
The term comes from the corona, or crown, of surface proteins that the virus uses to penetrate the cells of the infected human.
Between November 2002 and July 2003, the SARS virus infected 8,096, killing a total of 774.
At this stage, there are around 44 cases of the new coronavirus confirmed.
First death related to new coronavirus
The first death, of a 61-year-old man from Wuhan, is linked to the pneumonia-like illness.
However, this is not reported in Chinese state media until two days later.
The WHO reports that “according to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people”.
Scientists scramble to figure out virus’s qualities
China shares the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus for countries to use in developing specific diagnostic kits.
The WHO says that “according to the preliminary epidemiological investigation, most cases worked at, or were handlers and frequent visitors to,” the seafood market.
“The government reports that there is no clear evidence that the virus passes easily from person to person,” the WHO says.
Researchers and scientists are collecting data in an urgent bid to learn more about the disease.
Virus strikes outside Chinese borders
The outbreak reaches beyond China for the first time, with the first international case confirmed in Thailand.
“The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for ongoing active monitoring and preparedness in other countries,” the organisation said.
“The patient’s full exposure history is under investigation. She reported a history of visiting a local fresh market in Wuhan on a regular basis prior to the onset of illness on January 5, 2020; however, she did not report visiting the Huanan South China Seafood Market from where most of the cases were detected.”
From Japan to South Korea and the United States
The virus spreads to Japan, with the first reported case.
The second death from the coronavirus is confirmed, this time a 69-year-old man.
Wuhan Health Commission discloses there is a limited possibility of person-to-person transmission.
The WHO reiterates this information and warns that a wider outbreak is possible.
In the coming days, it will hit South Korea, the US and Taiwan.
Human-to-human transmission confirmed
Monday, January 20
Chinese authorities confirm the virus can spread from person to person, as the virus hits more cities across China and the world.
China’s President Xi Jinping said curbing the outbreak and saving lives was now the top priority.
“People’s lives and health should be given top priority and the spread of the outbreak should be resolutely curbed,” he was quoted as saying by state television.
The number of confirmed cases rises sharply to 282.
South Korea reports its first case of the coronavirus, and athird death is recorded in China.
New cases are confirmed in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in Guangdong province.
Australia ramps up airport screenings of passengers arriving from China.
‘Super-spreader’ warnings alerted
The United States confirms its first case of the virus, near Seattle.
Taiwan confirms its first case: a woman in her 50s.
New cases spring up in several major Chinese cities.
There are a total of 314 cases, with six deaths reported.
One of China’s top medical experts warns of the potential of “super-spreaders” — a person who, for a number of reasons, spreads an infectious disease to many other people, frequently the medical workers treating them.
Cases skyrocket as Beijing warns of ‘most critical stage’
Death toll jumps to 17 — almost doubling the previously reported nine deaths.
There are 440 confirmed cases.
The virus spreads to Hong Kong and Macau, while North Korea closes its borders to foreign tourists.
Hospitals in Wuhan are scrambling to deal with a flood of patients and a lack of supplies.
Chinese authorities warn people not to travel in or out of Wuhan, warning the country was at its “most critical stage” for controlling the outbreak.
Lunar New Year travel fears as Wuhan placed under lockdown
Wuhan goes in to lockdown — flights and trains are blocked, public transport is halted. Later, the travel ban will extend to private cars.
Health authorities in Hebei, just south of Beijing, said on Thursday an 80-year-old man infected with the coronavirus had died there, marking the first confirmed death outside Hubei.
Total cases rise to 581.
The virus spreads to Singapore, while Vietnam confirms two cases.
Although the WHO declares the outbreak an “emergency in China”, it stops short of calling it a global health emergency.
Fears grow as Chinese Lunar New Year approaches.
The annual holiday typically sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel to visit their families, stoking concerns the virus could spread rapidly.
Dozens killed amid hundreds of cases
The virus spreads to Europe for the first time.
France confirms its first three cases. Two are hospitalised in Paris and one in Bordeaux.
Researchers from the University of Queensland are using new rapid medical development technology to help create a vaccine for the new virus strain.
They hope to develop a vaccine in 16 weeks.
Some 846 cases have been reported, with 830 of those in China. The death toll stands at 26.
Meanwhile, 13 cities are in lockdown in Hubei province, impacting some 40 million people.
Australia hit by virus
Australia confirms its first case of the coronavirus — a Chinese national who flew into Melbourne on a flight from Guangzhou on January 19. Three more cases are identified in NSW and are held in isolation in hospital in Sydney.
A total of 1,320 cases of the new coronavirus are reported globally; 41 people have died.
Shanghai reports its first death, while the virus spreads to Nepal.
The disease spreads to Malaysia, which records four cases.
Hong Kong declares a state of emergency, its highest warning level. Trains and flights from Wuhan in mainland China are blocked.
China announces it is rapidly building a 1,000-bed hospital dedicated to coronavirus patients.
Aussie children stuck in Wuhan as cases skyrocket
The number of confirmed cases jumps by 694, bringing the global total to 2,014.
The death toll stands at 56.
The ABC confirms more than 100 Australian children are stuck in Wuhan. Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australia is working closely with Chinese authorities to get them out.
Canada announces its first “presumptive” case, and a second the next day.
Health experts warn the virus could be contagious in its incubation period (up to 14 days), before patients start exhibiting symptoms.
The Chinese capital Beijing reports its first death, with the toll climbing to at least 81. More than 2,750 people are infected globally.
Chinese state-owned media reports that there are 51 “cured and discharged patients”.
Cambodia and Sri Lanka report their first cases of the virus.
Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang admits mistakes were made — that timely information about the virus was not distributed fast enough — and he is willing to resign.
A fifth case is confirmed in Australia — a student at the University of New South Wales.
The US, France and Japan signal they plan to evacuate citizens on chartered flights.
The China Daily reports more than 5 million people left the city of Wuhan ahead of the lockdown, according to Mayor Xianwang.
Where we are today
China reports 25 more deaths in the coronavirus outbreak as the toll rises to at least 106.
The total number of confirmed cases has climbed to more than 4,515 worldwide.
The virus has now been detected in 15 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and Vietnam.
Read more on this story:
- China instigates ‘unprecedented’ lockdown of cities as virus mutates
- How the coronavirus started in China — and why that’s actually a saving grace
- Race is on as Australian researchers rush to make coronavirus vaccine
- ‘Never been this scared’: What it’s like to be trapped in a city under a virus lockdown
- What authorities are doing to protect Australians from coronavirus?
- What is coronavirus and do Australians need to be alarmed?
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