Covid-19: How the pandemic unfolded

PARIS: From the first cases in China in late 2019 to the WHO's declaration that Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, a selection of key moments in the pandemic.

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alerted to a cluster of pneumonia cases "of unknown cause" in China's central city of Wuhan.

A week later, a new coronavirus is identified. China confirms on January 11 its first death in Wuhan from an illness which will be named Covid-19.

On January 23, Wuhan is placed under quarantine.

The virus nevertheless rapidly spreads.

On March 11, the WHO says Covid-19 is a pandemic.

Italy, the first European country to be hard hit, imposes a lockdown in the north on March 12, which it then extends nationwide.

Spain (March 14) and France (March 17) place their populations under lockdown. Germany and Britain say people should avoid all social contact. The 27-nation European Union closes its external borders.

Lockdown measures are enforced all around the world.

On April 2, more than 3.9 billion people – half of the world's population – are forced or called on to stay at home, according to an AFP count. The threshold of one million cases is exceeded.

World stock markets crash. Whole sectors of the world economy are brought to a halt.

The virus takes off in the United States and Brazil, with the two giants overtaking Europe to register the biggest tolls.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro dismisses Covid as a "little flu", while US counterpart Donald Trump says it will go away naturally.

Their management of the pandemic is heavily criticised.

In mid-2020, amid a new upsurge, several European countries make the wearing of masks compulsory in certain places, sparking anti-mask demonstrations.

A year later, opposition turns to Covid vaccines, and to the health passes some countries require people to show.

Vaccines are rolled out in record time, the first jabs given in late 2020 in the United States and Europe.

Campaigns start out slowly before picking up speed in 2021 in western countries.

But access to vaccines remains very unequal.

A WHO team of international experts visits Wuhan in January 2021 to investigate the origins of the virus.

Beijing baulks at calls for further investigation on the ground.

In July 2022, the WHO says "all hypotheses remain on the table," as studies conclude that Covid-19 first emerged at an animal market in Wuhan.

The highly contagious Delta variant causes huge loss of life in April and May in India and then spreads quickly to the rest of the world, particularly Russia.

In November, the heavily mutated Omicron strain emerges in South Africa, prompting global panic. It spreads around the world in early 2022 sparking record infections but with less severe symptoms.

Despite its relatively low death toll, China counts the cost of the zero-Covid policy of President Xi Jinping.

Public anger leads to the largest nationwide protests in decades.

In response, Chinese authorities decide on December 7 to radically ease the restrictions.

A surge in infections swiftly follows, leading many countries to require negative tests on travellers from China.

In March 2023, the WHO says the pandemic could settle down this year to a point where it poses a threat similar to flu.

Little by little countries around the world lift public health measures.

On May 5, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says Covid is no longer a global health emergency.

It has killed "at least 20 million" people, nearly three times the official estimate, he says.--AFP

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