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The world after a year of COVID-19


It’s rare that a single story affects a single year as thoroughly as the coronavirus pandemic has shaped 2020. Here’s a look back at some of the key milestones as the disease started to tear through human society... and as mankind learned to fight back.

December 31, 2019: Taiwan begins screening arrivals from the Chinese city of Wuhan after noticing news reports in December about the spread of an unknown pneumonia.

January 9, 2020: The first death from the still-unnamed novel coronavirus is reported in Wuhan, population 11 million.

January 21: Taiwan reports its first imported case, a person returning from Wuhan.

January 23: Residents of Wuhan are ordered not to leave the city and wear masks.

January 27: Germany confirms its first case of the novel coronavirus, after a man is infected at work by a visiting Chinese colleague in the state of Bavaria.

January 31: Italy announces a state of emergency after its first two confirmed cases of the disease, measures that are only expected to be in place for half a year.

February 4: The Diamond Princess, a cruise ship, is put into coronavirus quarantine in the Japanese harbour city of Yokohama. More than 700 of the 2,660 passengers fall ill; 13 die. People are not allowed to leave until February 19, after testing negative. The cruise ship is one of the first to fall into such a situation during the pandemic.

February 6: Taiwan restricts arrivals from China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as port calls by international cruise liners. Rationing of medical masks begins.

February 10: China’s death toll from the coronavirus surpasses 1,000.

February 11: The novel coronavirus is named Sars-CoV-2 by the World Health Organization. The disease it causes is named COVID-19. One month later, a pandemic is officially declared.

February 15: The first coronavirus death in Europe is recorded, in France, a Chinese tourist who had arrived in January.

February 21: 38-year-old Mattia Maestri is diagnosed with coronavirus in Codogno, Italy — the first confirmed home-grown case in a country that will soon become the epicentre of the pandemic.

February 23: Eleven Italian cities are fenced off in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus, affecting more than 50,000 people. Carnival in Venice is called off.

February 26: Brazil confirms the first coronavirus case in Latin America.

February 27: Saudi Arabia suspends trips for the Umrah pilgrimage.

February 29: The Washington state Department of Health confirms that one person has died of COVID-19, marking the first confirmed death in the US.

March 4: All schools are shuttered in Italy due to the virus.

March 7: Argentina confirms the first Covid-19 death in Latin America.

March 10: Italy becomes the first country in the West to go into nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown.

March 11: Europeans are banned from entering the United States, as the administration of Donald Trump moves to control the spread of the virus. Americans abroad are allowed back in, provided they submit to testing.

March 12: Markets worldwide crash amid fears about the coronavirus.

March 13: Trump declares the coronavirus outbreak to be a national emergency.

March 13: All British sporting leagues, including England’s Premier League, pause all games in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

March 14: Spain implements strict lockdown rules. Nonetheless, the number of coronavirus deaths climbs by more than 3,400 within 10 days.

March 14: Denmark closes its borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

March 15: Germany closes its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland as it rushes to get ahead of the virus’ spread.

March 18: The US and Canada agree to temporarily shut down their land border to “non-essential traffic.”

March 18: The European Central Bank approves an emergency aid programme to the tune of 750 billion euros ($912.7 billion) in an effort to fight the effects of the coronavirus.

March 19: Italy’s death toll, at 3,000, surpasses China’s. The world is shocked by images of the dead in Bergamo being carried away by military trucks because the Italian city’s crematorium is too full.

March 19: Australia and New Zealand close their borders to non-residents.

March 19: The State Department tells US citizens to either come back to the United States immediately or prepare to stay put wherever they are located.

March 20: Schools close across Britain after 104 people die after contracting coronavirus. They reopen on June 1.

March 20: New York state is put under lockdown due to the virus’ spread. The city of New York alone reports 4,000 cases.

March 22: After announcing tough new measures to prevent infection, German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself goes into isolation because one of her doctors has tested positive for the virus.

March 23: Britain goes into a national lockdown.

March 24: Acknowledging the pandemic’s dangers, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese officials decide to delay the Tokyo Olympics by one year, to 2021.

March 24: India declares a 21-day lockdown, which sends many suddenly unemployed people back home, further spreading the disease.

March 25: Dubai-based airline Emirates suspends all passenger flights due to the novel coronavirus.

March 27: The US Congress approves the largest aid package in its history to combat the virus, providing $2 billion of assistance.

March 27: Russian President Vladimir Putin says people should take one week paid vacation and stay home, with only supermarkets, chemists and hospitals remaining open. Official data shows 1,500 cases in Russia, most of them in Moscow.

March 27: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reveals he has been infected with the coronavirus. He is hospitalised, but survives.

March 27: South Africa ushers in one of the world’s toughest COVID-19 lockdowns, closing borders, introducing a nationwide curfew, and even banning alcohol and cigarette sales in an effort to free up hospital beds.

March 30: Hungary’s parliament passes an emergency law giving President Viktor Orban sweeping powers to help control the virus’ spread.

April 2: The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus passes the 1 million mark globally, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

April 8: Coronavirus restrictions are lifted in Wuhan.

April 10: Pope Francis celebrates Good Friday — and the rest of the Easter feast — in relative solitude. He calls for an end to egocentric behaviour and demands solidarity.

April 11: The US coronavirus death toll hits 20,000, the world’s highest count. Italy is the second-worst affected nation.

April 14: US President Donald Trump suspends payments to the WHO, arguing that it is beholden to China and reacted too late to the crisis.

April 16: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fires health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta for disagreeing with his assessment about the virus’ dangers.

April 16: Japan extends a state of emergency to include the whole nation.

April 19: Celebrities gather virtually for “One World: Together at Home” an eight-hour online concert designed to raise spirits and thank caregivers while much of the world’s population is in lockdown.

April 20: Shortly before the start of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia closes its most important mosques.

April 23: Trump suggests combatting the virus with disinfectants and ultraviolet radiation introduced inside the body.

April 27: More than 3 million people have suffered a coronavirus infection worldwide, estimate researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US. More than 210,000 have died.

April 30: Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mushustin tests positive for the coronavirus and enters into a temporary self-isolation period. Several subordinate officials later say they also tested positive.

May 4: An online donors’ conference to raise funds for vaccines and medicines raises 7.4 billion euros.

May 5: Britain becomes the European country with the highest coronavirus case count: 32,000. Italy is in second place.

May 16: Germany’s Bundesliga is the first major football and sports league to resume play post lockdown, behind closed doors and amid a strict hygiene protocol.

May 21: The global cumulative case count has hit 5 million, reports Johns Hopkins, with more than 328,000 dead.

May 27: The number of coronavirus dead has hit 100,000, reports Johns Hopkins. The news comes days after Trump tweeted about sinking infection and death counts.

May 29: Trump announces the US’ withdrawal from the WHO. It is set to take effect in July 2021.

June 12: Non-essential shops reopen in Northern Ireland, marking the beginning of the easing of restrictions begins in the four nations. England follows a few days later, followed by Wales and then Scotland.

June 13: France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands reach a deal with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca to buy 300 million doses of the company’s vaccine, which is still under development.

June 19: Brazil becomes the country second-most affected by the coronavirus, with more than 1 million cumulative infections and 49,000 deaths.

June 22: Saudi Arabia announces the annual Haj pilgrimage can go ahead, but only for a limited number of residents due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The pilgrimage goes ahead in July with strict precautions, including the use of sterilised pebbles for symbolic devil stoning.

June 25: The European Medicines Agency allows remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 patients. The EU Commission signs off on the ruling in early July.

June 28: Cumulative global coronavirus infections have hit 10 million, reports Johns Hopkins, with the number of dead surpassing 500,000.

July 7: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro becomes the latest world leader to be infected with the coronavirus.

July 21: EU leaders agree to pool resources to create a historic 1.8-trillion-euro budget-and-stimulus package to help the bloc’s economy bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

July 24: The WHO records more than 284,000 new cases in one day. Half of those new cases were in Brazil and the US.

August 1: Germany agrees to provide free tests for travellers returning from overseas vacations. That is upgraded to a required test for people returning from risk zones a week later. The tests remain free until mid-September.

August 9: The US has a quarter of all coronavirus cases — 5 million people — reports Johns Hopkins, also noting 162,000 deaths there.

August 11: Putin announces that a Russian state laboratory has developed a coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik V, and personally endorses it, saying one of his daughters took it with no side effect worse than a slight, temporary fever.

August 11: After 100 days with no local transmission, New Zealand reports four new cases.

September 9: The EU Commission reaches a deal with German firm BioNTech to secure 300 million vaccine doses as soon as the company’s still-untested compound is ready for release.

September 18: Israel returns to lockdown as the country registers more than 3,800 new cases a day.

September 22: The US death toll surpasses 200,000, reports Johns Hopkins. It is the highest death toll for any country. The US has, so far, had 6.8 million cases.

September 29: The global death toll from coronavirus has hit 1 million, reports Johns Hopkins, with the US, Brazil, India and Mexico reporting the most deaths.

October 14: France brings back tougher lockdown rules as the daily case count surpasses 30,000. They are to include a night-time curfew to go into effect on October 17. Further restrictions are announced on October 28.

October 19: The WHO records more than 40 million cumulative cases, with most of them in the US, India and Brazil.

October 23: Wales enters a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown to stop the spike of cases.

October 24: Denmark closes its border to Germany, citing coronavirus risks.

October 28: German officials agree to a new partial lockdown in light of climbing case numbers, with a focus on closing establishments, restaurants and limiting social gatherings. They are later extended through January 10.

October 30: Belgium reactivates its lockdown measures.

October 31: Slovakia begins a weekend of mass testing in an effort to check the status of its entire population. Ultimately, 3.6 million of a 5.5-million population are tested.

November 3: Algeria announces President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has Covid-19, one week after he was transferred to Germany for hospitalisation.

November 4: Denmark’s government announces a mass cull of the country’s 15 million to 17 million farmed mink after the discovery of mutated forms of the coronavirus from minks had spread to humans.

November 9: US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech say their COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 per cent effective, paving the way for the vaccine race front-runners to apply for regulatory approval.

November 10: Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat dies of COVID-19, aged 65.

November 16: US firm Moderna unveils its own vaccine, stating it is 94.5 per cent effective.

November 18: The US has now seen 250,000 coronavirus deaths, reports Johns Hopkins.

November 23: Oxford University and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca announce their vaccine candidate — based on more traditional approaches than the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna versions — but note that it might only be about 70 per cent effective.

December 8: Britain becomes the first country to begin inoculations with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

December 11: The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech gets emergency approval for use from the US Food and Drug Administration, clearing the way for vaccinations to begin days later.

December 13: With coronavirus case counts rising, German leaders agree to toughen the ongoing lockdown, nixing earlier hopes of looser rules during the Christmas holidays. An end date is set for January 10, but officials say the shutdown could very easily stretch past that date.

December 17: French President Emmanuel Macron has the coronavirus.

December 18: The Moderna vaccines gets US regulatory approval.

December 19: Britain returns to lockdown amid reports that a mutant strain of the coronavirus is widespread in the country. Multiple countries subsequently slap entry bans on people arriving from Britain.

December 21: The European Medicines Agency gives its approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s use within the EU, clearing the path for inoculations to start before the end of 2020.

December 21: A 74-year-old in Israel becomes the first recorded case of a victim dying after being infected with the coronavirus for a second time.

December 25: The head of Egypt’s electoral commission, Lashin Ibrahim, dies due to complications from COVID-19

December 26: Vaccinations begin in continental Europe, a day before the official start of vaccinations across the European Union.

December 27: Israel enters its third lockdown.

December 28: Brazilian authorities announce that the beaches in Rio de Janeiro will remain closed for new year’s festivities, the latest in a series of global efforts to limit partying and, hopefully, prevent the spread of the disease during year-end celebrations.

December 29: US congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, dies of COVID-19, making him the highest-ranking US official so far to die of the disease.

December 30: British regulators approve the use of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine.

December 30: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returns home after months of COVID-19 treatment in Germany.

December 31: The world waves goodbye and good riddance to 2020 as governments try to slow accelerating coronavirus caseloads by cancelling firework shows and telling people to stay home. — dpa

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