COVID-19: the pandemic that came to settle, so far

Chronology of a global health crisis that leaves hundreds of thousands dead and millions affected worldwide
An engineer shows a plastic model of the Covid-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing

AFP/NICOLAS ASFOURI  -   An engineer shows a plastic model of the Covid-19 coronavirus at the Quality Control Laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing

What started as a 'flu-like' outbreak in China has become a global pandemic that is devastating the entire world, with 344,000 deaths and more than five million cases diagnosed across the globe. The last few months show a sinister chronology that reaches the current point, trying to carry out a de-escalation process by mitigating the social confinement and distancing measures imposed by governments to tackle this global health problem.  

Everything started officially on December 31, when China first notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of unprecedented cases of flu, or even pneumonia, which were confirmed between December 12 and 29. The epicenter was located in Wuhan, in the province of Hubei, where the authorities of the Asian giant sealed off a seafood market as a possible source of the coronavirus outbreak that caused the current disease COVID-19. 

Mercado de mariscos de Wuhan cerrado, en la provincia de Hubei, China, el 10 de enero de 2020; está vinculado al brote de la neumonía causada por la nueva cepa del coronavirus
AP/DAKE KANG - Wuhan Seafood Market closed in Hubei Province, China, on January 10, 2020; it is linked to the outbreak of pneumonia caused by the new strain of the coronavirus

On January 7, the Asian country declared that the disease was caused by the new type of coronavirus and on January 11 the first death was reported, a 63-year-old man who had been in the aforementioned market in Wuhan. On January 21, the Chinese Government revealed that the virus had already been transmitted from person to person and the United States announced its first infection, which was the first official case outside Asia. The WHO began to evaluate the consideration of a state of emergency in the face of the new health enemy.  

Policías paramilitares en la Plaza de Tiananmen en Pekín, China
AP/MARK SCHIEFELBEIN - Paramilitary police in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China

In this initial stage there was already propagation to other areas of China, such as Shanghai or Beijing, and other Asian countries such as Thailand, South Korea or Taiwan. Soon after, on January 23, there were already 17 deaths counted by the communist regime, which decreed the isolation of three cities.  

On Jan. 30, the WHO declared a global health emergency as the number of deaths in China reached 170. By the next day, the number of cases exceeded 9,900, and it was reported from neighbouring Hong Kong that up to 75,000 could be affected only in Wuhan.  

At this time, the United Kingdom reported its first COVID 19 infection, a student from York, including the warning noted by medical officer Chris Witte that the situation could be out of control. Cases were already known in Spain, Sweden and Russia. In Spanish territory, the first contagion detected occurred on the Canary island of La Gomera in early February.  

El presidente de China, Xi Jinping
PHOTO/MAURIZIO GAMBARINI - China's President Xi Jinping

On February 2nd, the first death outside China landed in the Philippines. Meanwhile, China decided to 'close' the country, affecting the mobility of more than 60 million people. At this point, several countries had already sent planes to evacuate their compatriots in Wuhan, introducing travel restrictions to the Asian country.  

On February 6, the United Kingdom announced three cases of coronavirus, with 1,000 confirmed in China's Zhejiang province and more than 10,000 in Wuhan. In addition, the death of Dr Li Wenliang was announced. He first warned the world about the coronavirus and was facing charges by the Chinese state of spreading rumours and threatening national security.  

On February 15, the first death outside Asia occurred, an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in France. In addition, 355 people were found to be affected on board the famous Diamond Princess cruise ship, which meant the largest group of people infected outside China. This figure quickly rose to more than 600 and began to leave behind many deaths, including two Japanese passengers who were taken to Japan and eventually died there.  

By the end of February, experts were already talking about a global pandemic, with two highly affected countries which saw the number of people affected grow by leaps and bounds: Italy and South Korea. Two nations that had a very different response to the health crisis, as the South Koreans managed to tackle it more efficiently. At this time, about 50,000 people in 12 Italian cities were quarantined.   

Personal médico traslada a un paciente hacia un helicóptero en el Hospital Emile Muller de Mulhouse, Francia, el 22 de marzo de 2020
AFP/SEBASTIEN BOZON - Medical staff use a trolley to move a patient towards a medical helicopter at The Emile Muller Hospital in Mulhouse, eastern France, on March 22, 2020

On February 27, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the epidemic was underway, while U.S. President Donald Trump declared the risk to Americans to be low, which would later prove not to be true. For its part, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced a ban on entering its territory to visit the Prophet's Mosque.  

The UK published an emergency plan on March 3- when the number of victims exceeded 50; and on March 9 Italy announced restrictions and stores closures all over the country, except for food and pharmacies.  

On March 11, WHO declared a global pandemic, after worldwide cases exceeded 100,000, with a high number of deaths. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of cases outside China had increased 13 times in two weeks, condemning inaction in several countries to address the problem. Meanwhile, the cases in the United States already exceeded 1,000, and Donald Trump seemed to realize that the problem was much bigger than he first said, being also confronted by the WHO for his management of the crisis.  

El director general de la OMS, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Precisely, the Trump Administration already declared on March 13 the national emergency in the nation, allocating 50 billion dollars to fight the virus.  

Another prominent political authority who had been rather unconcerned, such as Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, began to realize the seriousness of the matter and on March 16 urged that public places should be avoided in order to curb contagion. It should be noted that even the British leader himself became infected and was admitted to hospital with severe pneumonia. The total closure in Great Britain was decreed on March 23, just when Italy was outnumbering even China in victims.  

On March 25, the deaths in Spain exceeded those officially declared by China and Italy (although there are divergences about which cases were actually quantified, depending on whether screening tests had been carried out or not; and even doubts about the figures provided by the Chinese regime).

By this time, the United States announced a $2 trillion stimulus package, after surpassing Italy and Spain in the number of cases of coronavirus, and France extended the closures. 

On April 3, cases worldwide exceeded one million, with more than 52,000 deaths, and on April 6, Spain and Italy saw the number of deaths drop encouragingly. Meanwhile, in the USA this figure reached 10,000 and in the world 72,000. On April 10th the American country registered the highest number of deaths with 1,858 and the United Kingdom with 980.  

On April 13th, the WHO warned about patients who tested positive for the coronavirus despite their recovery. On April 15th, the USA was in first place in the world with 636,000 registered cases, while the global figure reached two million.  

At the end of April, experts strongly criticized Donald Trump's position. Ramadan, on the other hand, forced restrictive measures such as travel restrictions and the closure of mosques in Muslim countries.  

On April 28, the number of people affected reached three million, with 200,000 deaths. And Donald Trump's US Executive announced he was suspending funds for the WHO. By the middle of last month there had already been some relaxation of mobility and containment measures in countries like Spain and Italy, despite WHO warnings about the precautions that still needed to be taken.  

El presidente de Estados Unidos, Donald Trump, durante la sesión informativa sobre la COVID-19 en la Casa Blanca, el 15 de abril de 2020
AFP/MANDEL NGAN - U.S. President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 briefing at the White House on April 15, 2020

On May 4, the UK recorded the lowest number of deaths since March 30, 288, and Italy reopened parks, bars and restaurants, with some four million people returning to work. Meanwhile, Spain confirmed the lowest death rate since March.  

On May 6, Great Britain led the way in deaths in Europe, with 30,000; and on the 13th of that same month, the European Union presented a plan to ease border restrictions during the summer in order to favor the important tourism sector, something that was taken advantage of by the Spanish government of Pedro Sánchez, who announced this same weekend the intention to receive tourists as early as July. By the middle of this month there was already concern about a high number of victims in the U.S., Brazil and Russia and scientists worldwide suggested the coronavirus might not have been detected in one out of every four people with symptoms.  

Sala de cultivo de células en las instalaciones de Sinovac Biotech en Pekín, China
AFP/NICOLAS ASFOURI - Cell culture room at the Sinovac Biotech facility in Beijing, China

Precisely, at the end of May there are greater signs of relaxation in terms of the measures implemented by governments to stop the spread of COVID-19, in view of the decrease in daily infection rates, while research continues at a fast pace to find a useful drug or vaccine, with progress such as that of Modern Therapeutics or that developed in China with good results even in the early stages of human testing.