A Timeline of the Coronavirus


The coronavirus, which surfaced in a Chinese seafood and poultry market late last year, has spread to 24 countries, killing more than 1,000 and sickening tens of thousands of people in a matter of weeks. The World Health Organization has declared the situation a global health emergency.

Here’s a timeline of what we know so far about the outbreak.

Dec. 31

On Dec. 31, the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that health authorities were treating dozens of cases. Days later, researchers in China identified a new virus behind an illness that had infected dozens of people in Asia. At the time, there was no evidence that the virus was readily spread by humans. Health officials in China were monitoring it to ensure that the outbreak would not develop into something more severe.

Jan. 11

On Jan. 11, Chinese state media reported the first known death from the disease caused by the virus, which had infected dozens of people in China. The 61-year-old man who died was a regular customer at the market in Wuhan, where the illness is thought to have originated, and he had previously been found to have abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease. The report of his death came just before one of China’s biggest holidays, when hundreds of millions of people travel across the country.

Jan. 20

The first confirmed cases of the coronavirus outside mainland China occurred in Japan, South Korea and Thailand, according to the World Health Organization’s first situation report published on Jan. 20. The first confirmed case in the United States came the next day in Washington State, where a man in his 30s developed symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan.

After Chinese officials urged people not to travel to or from Wuhan, severe travel restrictions were put in place. On Jan. 23, the authorities closed off Wuhan by canceling planes and trains leaving the city, and suspending buses, subways and ferries within it. At this point, at least 17 people had died and more than 570 others had been infected, including in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.

Jan. 30

Amid thousands of new cases in China, a “public health emergency of international concern” was officially declared on Jan. 30 by the World Health Organization. The country’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that China would continue to work with the W.H.O. and other countries to protect public health, and the U.S. State Department warned travelers to avoid China.

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Jan. 31

On Jan. 31, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines said they would suspend service, for at least two months, between the United States and mainland China. The Trump administration said it would suspend entry into the United States by any foreign nationals who had traveled to China in the last 14 days, excluding the immediate family members of American citizens or permanent residents. By this date, 213 people had died and nearly 9,800 had been infected worldwide.

Feb. 2

A 44-year-old man in the Philippines died after being infected by the coronavirus, officials said on Feb. 2. The man’s death was the first reported outside China. By this point, the number of deaths had risen to more than 360.


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