the 31st of December – China reports group of unusual Wuhan pneumonia cases to WHO for the first time
January 4 – WHO tweets about “group of pneumonia cases” in Wuhan without death, saying investigations are underway
January 5 – WHO publishes its first advice on “pneumonia of unknown cause”, claiming that there are a total of 44 patients and 11 in serious condition. The main symptom is fever, with “some patients having difficulty breathing”. WHO says there is “no evidence of human-to-human transmission” and that “no infections with health workers have been reported”
January 7 – China says it has identified the cause of pneumonia as a “new coronavirus”, originally named 2019-nCoV by WHO
January 9 – WHO commends China for identifying the new virus “in a short period of time” and reiterates its assessment that the virus “is not easily transmitted between people”. He also advises against travel or trade restrictions in China
January 13 – WHO says it is currently working with Thai authorities after reporting a case there and may convene an Emergency Committee meeting
January 14 – WHO tweets saying there is “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission in China,” but clarifies later and says there may have been limited transmission through family members
Jan 20-21 – The WHO field team in China makes a brief field visit to the epicenter of Wuhan
Jan 21 – The first case is confirmed on American soil in Washington, in a person who had traveled from China a week before
Jan 22 – A WHO team report sent to Wuhan notes that “human-to-human” transmission is underway, but indicates that more research is needed to assess “total extent”. Report notes confirmed infections in 16 doctors, clear sign of patient transmission
Team recommends avoiding large gatherings, isolating infected people and focusing on hand washing as the best way to stop the spread of the virus
On the same day, the WHO Emergency Committee met for the first time. Subsequently, Dr. Tedros said he had spoken with the Chinese Minister of Health and commended the government for its “invaluable” efforts to stop the virus. He calls a second meeting for the next day
Jan 23 – With the emergency committee divided, Dr. Tedros said he had decided not to declare the virus a public health emergency of international concern. Referring to the Wuhan lockdown, which was announced the same day, he hopes “it will be effective and short-lived.” He hails China’s “cooperation and transparency” in the fight against the virus
Dr. Tedros says there is limited evidence of human-to-human transmission, mainly among families or doctors treating the virus. At this stage, there are 584 confirmed cases and 17 deaths worldwide, including in Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and the United States.
It recommends screening at airports and tells countries to set up testing facilities, but does not recommend a travel ban
Jan 28 – Dr. Tedros and other senior WHO officials meet with Xi Jinping in China, agreeing that a group of experts should be dispatched to monitor the epidemic. He salutes “the seriousness with which China is taking this outbreak, in particular the commitment of senior management and the transparency they have shown”
Jan 29 – Dr. Tedros delivers a speech welcoming China’s efforts to contain the virus, saying that the country “deserves our gratitude and respect” for having locked up parts of the country to prevent its spread.
He notes a few cases of human-to-human spread outside of China, which he says are “of great concern” and will be followed closely
Jan 30 – The WHO Emergency Committee reconvenes quickly and declares a public health emergency of international concern. It occurs after confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the United States.
Dr Tedros commends China again for “setting a new standard for response to outbreaks” with its bans, and says the small number of cases outside the country – 98 – is “due to their efforts”
Although he notes that a majority of cases outside of China have a history of travel to or from Wuhan, he again recommends that no action be taken to restrict travel or international trade.
Jan. 31 – Donald Trump announces travel restrictions for people from China
Feb 3 – Dr. Tedros gives a speech at the WHO Coronavirus Update, saying that there are 17,238 cases in China and 361 deaths – now that that is underestimated
He praises Xi Jinping for his individual leadership and insists that cases outside of China “can be handled” if global authorities work together and follow recommendations which include – no travel or trade ban, support countries with weak health systems, investing in vaccines and diagnostics, combating misinformation and urgent reviews of emergency preparedness
Feb 7 – Dr. Li Wenliang, a doctor who first reported the existence of a coronavirus and who was first silenced by China, dies of the virus
Feb 10 – WHO team of experts arrives in China to witness the outbreak
11 feb – WHO names the disease caused by the COVID-19 virus, saying it has avoided including a geographic name because it risks “stigmatizing” people. He says he will not use the name SARS-CoV-2 as it may cause “unnecessary fear” by relating it to the 2003 SARS epidemic.
Feb 12 – Dr Tedros says the number of new cases reported in China has “stabilized” but adds that it must be “interpreted with extreme caution” and that the epidemic “could still go in any direction”
February 16-24 – WHO expert team meets in China to visit affected sites and share information on best ways to respond to the crisis
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on COVID-19, the new coronavirus, at WHO headquarters in Geneva
Feb 17 – Dr. Tedros begins presiding over daily updates on the response to coronaviruses, with each briefing starting with an update on the number of infections, including from China, which repeat without reservation.
It provides an analysis of Chinese data on some 44,000 confirmed cases. According to him, the data show that 80% of cases are mild, 14% result in serious illness and 2% are fatal. The disease is more severe in the elderly, with the young largely spared.
He urges world leaders not to “waste” a window of opportunity to stay ahead of the virus and prevent it from spreading
Feb 26 – Donald Trump announces a response team dedicated to coronaviruses, led by Mike Pence
Feb 28 – The WHO expert team delivers its first report on the coronavirus. Among its main findings, the disease is probably caused by bats, it is spread by close contact with infected people and not by air, and the most common symptoms are fever, dry cough and fatigue.
Report hails China’s response as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history,” saying the closings were carried out “because of the ‘Chinese people’s deep commitment to collective action’ and led to a rapid decline in the number of cases
March 9 – All of Italy is locked out as the virus spreads, the first European nation to enter a total lockout
March 11 – WHO declares the coronavirus a pandemic, which means that it spreads uncontrollably in many places around the world. At this point, cases have been reported in more than 100 countries
March 13 – WHO says Europe is now the new epicenter of the virus after a rapid increase in cases, Dr Tedros noted that “more cases are now reported every day than those reported in China at the height of its epidemic”
March 19 – China reports no new domestic infection due to coronavirus since the start of the pandemic
March 20 – Dr. Tedros warns that “young people are not invincible” to the virus after outside data shows that a large number of people under the age of 50 end up in intensive care
March 25 – As Donald Trump begins to tout hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronaviruses, WHO warns that no drug has yet been approved to treat the virus
The same day, the organization requests additional funding of $ 2 billion to fight the virus
Apr 3 – As millions of American citizens join unemployment benefits, Dr. Tedros and the IMF are asking for debt relief and social protection to help people weather the pandemic
Apr 6 – WHO is updating its guidelines on masks to say that they are effective in stopping the spread of the virus, but should be used in conjunction with other methods.
It comes after the CDC updated its guidelines to advise people to wear masks in public
Apr 8 – After Trump’s first barrage of criticism for WHO, Dr. Tedros urges world leaders to “stop politicizing the pandemic” unless they want “no more body bags”
Apr 13 – Group of scientists assembled by WHO to search for a coronavirus vaccine issues joint statement urging world leaders to continue listening to the scientific community when responding to the virus