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COVID-19: the timeline of the world’s latest pandemic

24 Mar 2020 5:26 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The Carleton University Centre nearly devoid of students due to COVID-19 concerns with the flags of the world hanging overhead. Photo by Matthew Guida.

Over the last few months, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been regularly keeping up-to-date on the latest strain of coronavirus – SARS-CoV-2. The disease it causes, known as COVID-19, has spread around the globe infecting people in countries all over the world including China, Italy, the United States, and Canada.

Coronaviruses exist in both animals and humans. They are called zoonotic when they transmit between animals and humans. This family of viruses is responsible for causing a variety of diseases including cases of the common cold, as well as more severe ones like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). In 2002-03, the SARS coronavirus transitioned into a large-scale epidemic infecting people in more than two dozen countries, resulting in more than 8,000 cases and nearly 800 deaths. By comparison, COVID-19 has now been reported in more than 100 countries.

COVID-19 spreads from person to person but can also be transmitted from contacts with contaminated surfaces or objects. Those most at risk include those with weakened immune systems, chronic medical conditions, and the elderly. Symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. According to a recent study by researchers from the University of Texas in Austin, the new coronavirus spreads so quickly that people who have the virus can spread it before showing symptoms.

COVID-19 is causing severe social, political, as well as economic repercussions for people all over the world.

December 2019

COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019 and was traced to Wuhan, China and the source is believed to be a seafood wholesale market that sold both live and slaughtered livestock.

By Dec. 31, 2019, 27 infections were reported in Wuhan forcing the Chinese government to respond. At the time, they reported cases involving a viral outbreak of pneumonia – as the exact nature of the virus was still unknown – to the World Health Organization (WHO).

January 2020

Within the first two weeks of January, health officials had ruled out the presence of known coronaviruses such as SARS or MERS. Instead, Chinese researchers identified a new strain of coronavirus which would become known as SARS-CoV-2. There was speculation about the source of the outbreak. An article in the Journal of Medical Virology presents evidence that SARS-CoV-2 – or 2019-nCoV as it is referred to in the study –  is a genetic combination of coronaviruses found in bats and another of unknown origin, but which likely resided in snakes, before it was transmitted to humans.  

Within the next few weeks, the first death of the outbreak of the new COVID-19 disease was reported. It had already begun to spread outside of Wuhan. On Jan. 30 2020, the WHO officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak as an international public health emergency.

February 2020

By February 9, the death toll in China had reached 811, exceeding the number of people who died during the SARS epidemic between 2002-2003.

More countries reported their first confirmed COVID-19 cases. This number continued to rise along with the death toll. The severity of the situation had reached a point where several countries were beginning to close down their borders.

March 2020

Within the first two weeks of March, COVID-19 had been declared a pandemic by the WHO. Canada was also one of many new countries to report their first confirmed cases and as of March 20 had nearly 850 confirmed cases – most of which are located in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec.

Europe was also confirmed as being an epicentre of the pandemic with Italy being considered the worst hit by the pandemic, followed by Spain which declared a state of emergency on March 13. According to the most recent WHO report, as of March 19, the number of confirmed cases worldwide exceeds 200,000 and the global death toll has surpassed 8,700 deaths.

To make matters worse, concerns for COVID-19 have also led to the cancellation of several public events and businesses around the world. This includes colleges and universities which have moved to close down their campuses and are moving classes online.

Cities around the world that are normally filled with people have had their streets practically emptied as people confine themselves in their homes. As the situation develops, it is important for people to remain calm, ensure they follow proper hygiene guidelines, and avoid public places and large gatherings, especially if they believe they are sick. The Canadian government is posting the latest guidelines and statistics online, updated daily.


Al Jazeera (Mar. 12 2020). “Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread.”

Anne Gulland & Sarah Newey (Mar. 13 2020). “What is coronavirus, how did it start and could the outbreak grow bigger?” Telegraph

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary.”

Mandy Zuo et al. (Dec. 31 2019). “Hong Kong takes emergency measures as mystery ‘pneumonia’ infects dozens in China’s Wuhan city.” South China Morning Post

Peng, Zhou et al. (Apr. 4 2018). “Fatal swine acute diarrhoea syndrome caused by an HKU2-related coronavirus of bat origin.” Nature

The Lancet (Jan. 29 2020).  “2019 novel coronavirus is genetically different to human SARS and should be considered a new human-infecting coronavirus.” Eurekalert.

The Lancet. (Jan. 31 2020). “Modelling study estimates spread of 2019 novel coronavirus.” Eurekalert. 

By: Matthew Guida

As a native Montrealer, I graduated from Concordia University with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Film Studies. I am currently studying for my master’s degree in Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa.

My interest in journalism began while attending Concordia. I was a frequent contributor to the university’s independent newspaper, The Concordian. I further honed my skills and experience by working as a List Writer for the entertainment news website Screen Rant.

Since I started attending Carleton University, I have strived to further improve my skills as a journalist in not only print, but also in the fields of data, investigative and broadcast journalism. In the past year, I have also developed a growing appreciation for radio journalism and podcasts.

My current interests lie in studying the future of the journalism industry, writing and researching pop culture and social media trends, as well as furthering my career in the field of journalism.


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