From China to Europe and the world: A timeline of the coronavirus outbreak

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News of the deadly coronavirus outbreak gripped global media as the virus spread from China to countries around the world at the end of December 2019. Currently, the virus has been found in 28 countries, but the vast majority of cases, and deaths, have been reported in China.

The virus was first detected at the end of December last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. It is believed to have emerged as a result of the consumption of a pathogen usually found in wild animals. Exotic animals are commonly found in markets in China, where their meat is sold for food or traditional medicines.


For more coronavirus updates, check out Al Arabiya English's dedicated section.

Here is a timeline of the outbreak:

February 25: In China, 71 more coronavirus deaths are reported, and the total death toll stands at 2,663. Hong Kong extends school suspensions amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a fourth person has died. In Vietnam, the country’s health ministry says that all 16 patients are cured. As the virus spreads, its presence in the Middle East is now more widely felt. In Kuwait, there are now nine cases, and the country’s civil aviation authority suspends all flights with Singapore and Japan. Bahrain temporarily suspends all flights to Dubai and Sharjah for at least a 48 hour period. Iraq, which previously reported its first cases, indefinitely extended its travel ban on travelers from China and Iran and instituted similar bans on travelers from Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Singapore. Schools and universities in Iraq are suspended for 10 days in Najaf. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns citizens against non-essential travel to South Korea. On the markets side, Saudi Aramco CEO says he expects the virus’s impact on oil demand to be short lived.

February 24: Coronavirus hits the Middle East with four countries – Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman – reporting their first cases. Afghanistan also reported its first case. The infected persons had primarily come from Iran, which has the highest death toll from the virus outside China. In Iran, 12 have died and there are 61 confirmed cases. Border crossings appear across the region, and nine countries close land and air borders with Iran. Jordan bars travelers coming from Iran and China, and Iraq closes its borders with Kuwait. In Kuwait, the infected person is a Saudi citizen, and Saudi Arabia says it will coordinate with Kuwaiti health officials on the matter. In China, the death toll reaches 2,592, with confirmed cases reaching 77,150. Chinese authorities announce they will allow non-residents in Wuhan to leave the epicenter. Authorities reverse the decision the same day. China also postpones its parliament session for the first time in decades as it continues to battle the outbreak. In Italy, a fourth person dies as the total number of cases surpasses 100. In Venice, officials cancel carnival celebrations over coronavirus concerns. France quarantines a bus with passengers arriving from Milan, Italy.

February 23: China’s death toll rises to 2,442 after government officials announce 97 new deaths. In Iran, the death toll rises to eight, according to Iran’s health ministry, and clashes occur between Iranian security forces and protesters in the north of the country over the country’s handling of the outbreak. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accuses foreign media of trying to use the coronavirus outbreak in Iran to “discourage” people from voting in the parliamentary elections. In Lebanon, a woman suspected of bringing the virus to the country after traveling to Iran denies she is carrying the virus and blamed the government in Beirut for lying about her case. Armenia, Turkey, and Pakistan close their borders with Iran; Jordan bars travelers from China and Iran. Kuwait bans the entry of ships coming from Iran. It Italy, the number of cases rises to over 100. On the Diamand Princess cruise ship that is docked off Japan’s coast, a third passenger dies, and Japan says it will retest passengers after a woman who had disembarked tested positively. Economic impacts of the virus remain a major concern, and financial officials from the Group of 20 (G20) agree to continue monitoring the risk from the coronavirus outbreak. Al Arabiya English reports that imports and packages from China have been significantly delayed due to the outbreak.

February 22: The WHO says it is worried about the number of cases with no clear epidemiological link, such as those patients with no travel history to China. Italy reports its second death. Kuwait will evacuate 700 citizens from Mashhad, Iran, amid coronavirus fears. In Iran, schools in two cities close over the outbreak, and Iran reports one more death among 10 new cases. The number of deaths in the country is now at five and total infections rise to 28. The UAE announces two new confirmed cases, an Iranian couple who came to the UAE as tourists. Israeli and Palestinian authorities seek to quell fears of a potential local outbreak after learning that South Korean pilgrims who had visited the holy sites were later found to be infected. In Hong Kong, a four-year-old girl fell to her death after her father allegedly left her and her younger sister at home alone over fears of coronavirus. On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 100 passengers are allowed to disembark. Earlier this week, around 970 passengers disembarked.

February 21: The WHO says that the window of opportunity to contain the wider international spread of coronavirus is closing. In Hubei province, 115 people die, bringing the death toll to 2,233. Two new cases are confirmed in the UAE, health officials said. One of the patients is from the Philippines, the other from Bangladesh. The first case in Lebanon is reported in a woman who had traveled from Qom, Iran, which reported its first cases the day before. In Iran, two more have died, and the fatalities are among the 13 confirmed cases. In Italy, and Italian national tests positive; it’s the fourth case confirmed in Italy. In South Korea, the city of Daegu has shut down after 90 people who worship at the same church show symptoms. Kuwait Airways suspends all flights to Iran and Kuwait’s port authority also suspends movement of people to and from Iran until further notice due to the virus’s spread. An Israeli woman who returned to Israel from one of the coronavirus-hit cruise ships tests positive for the virus.

February 20: On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, another 13 people on board are diagnosed with coronavirus. Two elderly patients on the ship die from the virus. The total number of infections on the ship is 634. In a South Korean cult church, the number of cases rises to 39 in Daegu. The city’s mayor urged citizens to stay home. Iran confirms three new cases, bringing the total to five. In response, Iraq announces it will prepare quarantine centers along its borders with Iran. A new report shows that Egypt, Algeria, and South Africa are at a high risk of suffering from coronavirus because of the high levels of travel and trade with China. In the US, scientists announce that they have created the first 3D atomic scale map of the part of coronavirus that attaches to and infects human cells.

February 19: New virus cases in China continue to fall, as 1,749 new infections and 136 deaths are reported. In Egypt, a patient suspected to have the virus tests negative. In Iran, two citizens die from the virus in Qom. WHO data show that on Valentine’s Day infections spiked, and a total of 15,148 new cases were reported. A World Bank bond designed to deliver funding to help the world’s poorest countries tackle fast-spreading diseases has lost half its value as coronavirus outbreak in China.

February 18: The WHO reports there have been 92 cases of human-to-human transmission in 12 countries outside China. The death toll from coronavirus climbs over 1,800 after 93 people died in Hubei province. Across China, more than 72,300 people have been affected. The head of a hospital in Wuhan dies from the virus. Also in China, foreign firms are struggling to resume work as they face disrupted supply chains, rising inventory, and quarantine rules. French health minister Olivier Veran says there’s a credible risk the coronavirus outbreak turns into a pandemic. Cambodia’s prime minister defended the decision to allow a US cruise ship to dock, despite at least one person on the ship being infected. Meanwhile, on another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, docked off Japan’s coast, the total number of infected passengers now stands at 542. Thirteen American evacuees from the cruise ship are transported to Omaha, Nebraska for treatment. In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in says the government should make an effort to cushion the economic impact from the outbreak. Singapore announces a $4.6 billion financial package to manage the impact of coronavirus. The Iranian interior minister allegedly urged the country’s health minister to refrain from announcing any coronavirus cases prior to Friday’s parliamentary elections.

February 17: The death toll reaches 1,770, and the number of confirmed cases is 70,548. In Thailand, the number of cases climbs to 35. Another 99 people on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship are confirmed to have the virus. The flight carrying Americans evacuated from the ship lands in California, and Australia says it will evacuate more than 200 of its citizens aboard the cruise ship. Fourteen of the American evacuees test positive. China says it may postpone annual congressional meeting set for March because of the outbreak. Global trade in goods is likely to stay weak in coming months due to disruptions from coronavirus.

February 16: The death toll reaches 1,662, the vast majority in China. More than 68,000 have been infected. In Hubei province, vehicle traffic is banned across the province to curb the virus’s spread. Nepal evacuates 175 of its citizens from Wuhan. The ten Saudi Arabian students evacuated from Wuhan are released from quarantine after showing no signs of the virus. In Taiwan, a man dies from the virus, the first on the island. Aboard the Diamond Princess that sits off Japan’s coast, the number of infected passengers climbs to 355. A senior US health official says there are more than 40 infected Americans on board. Canada sends a plane to evacuate its citizens who are virus-free from the cruise ship. In Malaysia, an American who had been a passenger on the cruise ship that disembarked in Cambodia tests positive for coronavirus. The UAE reports another case of coronavirus in the country, a Chinese man whose condition is stable, according to the health ministry. The Chinese health commission says measures taken to rein in the virus are starting to have an impact, as the number of reported cases in the country falls for the third consecutive day, China reports.

February 15: Coronavirus continues to spread as 139 new deaths are reported in Hubei province. Over 2,000 new cases are detected in the province, bringing Hubei’s total number of infections to 54,406. Egypt confirms its first case, and France reports its first death – an elderly Chinese tourist hospitalized in Paris. Saudi Arabia signs six joint contracts to provide medical assistance and supplies to China to help combat coronavirus. In the US, officials begin testing in five states for coronavirus through its existing seasonal influenza surveillance system. The IMF managing director says she hopes governments and central banks will work on a response to the coronavirus outbreak as the economic impact becomes clear.

February 14: For the Valentine’s Day holiday, a businesswoman in the Philippines is selling flower bouquets stuffed with hand sanitizers, face masks, and other anti-coronavirus materials. Passengers aboard a cruise ship that had been at sea for over two weeks disembarks in Cambodia, after being turned away by five nations. As the virus continues to spread, the US promised to support aid work in North Korea. In China, doctors adopted a new way of diagnosing the virus, leading to a jump in the number of reported cases. With 254 new deaths reported, the global death toll now stands at 1,370. Coronavirus continues to impact global markets; the International Civil Aviation Organization said worldwide airline revenue could decline $4-5 billion as 70 airlines canceling international flights.

February 13: China confirms 15,152 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 59,805. The death toll in China reaches 1,367. Japan confirms its first case as Vietnam quarantines a commune of 10,000. In the UAE, officials say the country has stockpile adequate supplies to handle any outbreak. Aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, another 44 cases are confirmed, bringing the number of infections to 218. The WHO says a jump in the number of cases of coronavirus in China reflects a “broader definition” of the infection. Italy fears economic impacts of coronavirus as it is in danger of missing unambitious 2020 growth targets.

February 12: The death toll in mainland China climbs to 1,113 people. Across China, 2,015 new cases are confirmed. An Iranian woman who is suspected to be infected with the virus dies. In Singapore, DBS bank, the country’s biggest bank, evacuates 300 staff from its head office. The WHO announces that the first vaccine will be available in 18 months. On the markets side, three Asian oil refiners will take less Saudi Arabian crude oil than planned in March as coronavirus has lowered demand.

February 11: The death toll in China reaches 1,016. In mainland China, 2,478 cases were identified; the number of infected reaches 42,638. Globally, 43,090 are infected. In Hong Kong, dozens are quarantined after it is discovered the virus appeared to spread through the building’s pipes. WHO experts arrive in China to assist in attempting to control the epidemic. The WHO also warns that coronavirus is a “very grave threat” for the world. In the UAE, a new case of coronavirus is detected in an Indian national.

February 10: Around 100 people die overnight, as the number left dead from the virus reaches 910 people. More than 48,000 have been infected globally. Around 3,600 World Dream cruise ship passengers are allowed to disembark after being quarantined off the coast of Japan. The other cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, off Japan’s coast remains quarantined with 130 confirmed cases aboard; there are 3,700 passengers on board.

February 9: The death toll rises to 811, with more than 37,550 cases. The death rate remains low, at about 2 percent.

February 8: In one day, 86 people die from coronavirus, and the death toll rises to 805, passing the number of deaths from the SARS outbreak, with the vast majority of victims in mainland China. Worldwide, 34,400 people have been infected across 28 countries. Seven hundred and eighty deaths of the total death count are confirmed in Hubei province. A 60-year-old American dies and is believed to be the first US citizen to die from the virus. Canada and the US evacuate more than 200 citizens from Wuhan. In France, two schools near a ski resort where five Britons tested positive for the virus will shut down. WHO sends a team to investigate coronavirus outbreak in China.

February 7: The number of deaths in China reaches 636 and the number of reported cases climbs past 31,100. The number infected on the quarantined cruise ship rises to 61, say Japanese officials. UK officials tell travelers arriving from nine Asian countries to check for symptoms and advises them to stay home if they are ill and arrived back within the last 14 days. The doctor who warned the world about coronavirus, Dr. Li Wenliang, dies from the virus. As more global chains suspend operations in China, ratings agency S&P cuts China GDP forecast from 5.7 percent before the virus outbreak to 5 percent. In the US, biotechnology company Novacyt says it has applied for emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. Singapore reports three new cases with no links to previous cases or travel history to China.

Five hundred coronavirus deaths reported

February 6: The death toll reaches 563, and the number of infected reaches 28,256 globally. Hong Kong announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone entering from the Chinese mainland. Hospital authorities have asked employees on strike to return to work after 7,000 walked out previously after demanding a full closure of the border. Ten more people were found to be infected aboard one of two isolated cruise ships.

February 5: In Wuhan, a baby tests positive for coronavirus, just 30 hours after birth. WHO says there are “no known” drug treatments against the virus. Earlier, Reuters reports a Chinese TV media outlet had reports that a research team at Zheijiang University had found an effective drug. Sky News in the UK reports a scientist at Imperial College London had made a significant breakthrough in the race to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. Airbus closes its aircraft production plant and Adidas closes a “considerable” number of stores in China. The death toll climbs slowly from yesterday to 492; more than 24,500 people across 25 countries have been infected.

February 4: Coronavirus has claimed 490 lives, with the number of infected reaching more than 24,000. The president of the European Central Bank has expressed concern that coronavirus is fueling global economic uncertainty. WHO calls for ministers to improve data sharing on coronavirus and said a team of international experts would be sent to work with Chinese counterparts.

February 3: Qatar Airways begins suspending flights, while Pakistan resumes flights to and from China, three days after suspending them. Germany’s Lufthansa extends its flights suspensions to Beijing and Shanghai. On the markets side, the Shanghai Composite index closed nearly 8 percent lower, the index’s biggest daily drop in more than four years. So far, 426 people have been killed by coronavirus and more than 20,000 have been infected. Hong Kong reported its second death, only the second outside Wuhan. Nearly 60 million are under lockdown across Chinese cities.

February 2: A Wuhan resident dies in the Philippines, making him the first to die outside China; the death toll climbs to 360, with more than 17,000 infections confirmed across 23 countries, but the vast majority are in China. Meanwhile, China builds a new hospital in 10 days to combat coronavirus, state-run outlet Xinhau reports. New Zealand imposes new restrictions on travelers from mainland China. Chinese stocks take a plunge as the world’s second largest economy essentially shuts down because of the epidemic. China asks the European Union for help in buying urgently needed medical supplies. Saudi Arabia and National Carrier Oman Air suspend flights to China, and Virgin Atlantic suspends daily operations to Shanghai.

February 1: The death toll in China raises to 259, with 11,791 confirmed cases in China. India evacuates its citizens. The UAE consulate in Hong Kong suspends services, and the UAE detects the fifth case in the country. The US reports its first case of coronavirus. In Hong Kong, nurses threaten to go on strike if the city does not shut its border with mainland China. Vietnam’s Vietjet begins flight suspension to and from China.

January 31: Globally, coronavirus spreads to 9,809 people. In China, 213 people have died. The US, Saudi Arabia, and Japan advise citizens against all travel to China. Kenya Airways, Finnair, and Turkish Airlines suspend all flights to China. Vietnam introduces a temporary ban in issuing travel visas to Chinese tourists. Schools in Hong Kong are suspended until March 2. In England, two cases are confirmed in members of the same family. Russia will repatriate citizens in China, and vice versa. The UK and Jordan evacuates its citizens from China. Spain and Germany confirm their first cases, rising to seven in Germany by the day’s end. Singapore suspends entry to travelers who have recently visited China as well as Chinese passport holders. Kuwait issues a travel advisory to its citizens and calls on Kuwaitis currently in China to return. The US temporarily banned entry into the country for anyone traveling from China who isn’t a US citizen, permanent resident or an immediate family member or either. Any American returning to the US from the Hubei province will be quarantined for 14 days. WHO urges countries to keep official border crossings open. The European Commission announces an $11.05 million research grant for the virus. In Australia, the confirmed cases count rises to nine.

WHO declares global health emergency

January 30: WHO declares coronavirus a global health emergency as the virus touches 18 countries and leaves 170 dead and 7,700 infected. More people have now been infected with coronavirus than the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Russia closes its border with China. The UK, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, and New Zealand quarantine evacuees for 14 days. Health officials in Chicago report the first US case of human-to-human transmission. France evacuates its citizens.

January 29: Sudan and the UAE report their first confirmed cases, the first in the Middle East. UAE Health Minister confirms the cases are four Chinese tourists who arrived in the country on January 16. The global death toll rises to 132, with nearly 6,000 infected, as the number of cases in China surpasses the SARS epidemic. American company Johnson & Johnson announce that they have started work on a coronavirus vaccine. A number of international airlines cancel flights to the country, after Japan and the US evacuated citizens.

January 28: Germany reports its first confirmed case, with Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand announcing new cases. Germany and Japanese cases confirm first instance of human transmission. The number infected now totals at least 4,500. The US reports five cases, Singapore confirms a further two cases, bringing the total in the country to seven, while Thai authorities reported a further six cases, with 14 confirmed in the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping says “the epidemic is a demon, and we cannot let this demon hide,” at a meeting with the head of the WHO.

January 27: Canada, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia report their first confirmed cases. Australia and Taiwan report their fifth cases, and South Korea reports a fourth. The death toll in China rises to 106, including 100 in Hubei province. The number of confirmed infections reaches 4,515, including 1,423 new cases in Hubei province, since the previous day. Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka and Thailand join other governments in requesting China to release their nationals. Australia, Germany, India, and Britain reportedly consider evacuation options.

Watch the spread of the coronavirus around the world

Coronavirus spreads globally

January 26: Mexico reports its first confirmed case, the US confirms two cases in Orange County, and one in Arizona. Beijing and Shanghai report first deaths from the virus. Japan reports a fourth case. The death toll rises to 56, with nearly 2,000 reported cases, as France and the US announce plans to evacuate citizens stranded in Wuhan, while Hong Kong, and Taiwan tighten travel restrictions.

January 25: France reports three confirmed cases, the first in Europe, as Malaysian authorities report four, and Nepal reports one. The number of confirmed cases outside China total 23, with 1,320 cases reported worldwide.

China bans the trade of wild animals and raises the number of cities in Hubei province under quarantine to 18, affecting 56 million people. Hong Kong declares a virus emergency, cancelling Lunar New Year celebrations and suspending transport links to China.

January 24: South Korea and Japan confirm new cases. The death toll rises to 26, with the number of infections reaching 830, including 95 patients in critical condition. Chinese authorities start to shut down tourist attractions, including sections of the Great Wall, and Shanghai’s Disneyland.

January 23: Singapore reports its first case of coronavirus, while Vietnam confirms two infections. Transport links to and from Wuhan, and two other cities in Hubei province, Xiantao and Chibi, are suspended as the cities are put under effective quarantine. Beijing’s Lunar New Year celebrations, scheduled for January 25, are cancelled after Chinese authorities report the first death outside Hubei province.

January 22: Macau reports its first confirmed case of the virus as the death toll from the outbreak totals 17, with 550 confirmed infections. WHO meets in Geneva to discuss declaring an international health emergency, as China’s Huanan province bans the sale of poultry.

January 21: The US, Australia, and Taiwan report their first confirmed cases of coronavirus, all people who had recently returned from China.

January 20: South Korea reports its first confirmed case, as Chinese authorities report a third death, and over 200 cases.
January 17: A second person, a 69-year-old man, dies in Wuhan, and three US airports – John F. Kennedy in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles – announce plans to screen passengers arriving from the region.

January 16: Japan reports its first confirmed case, a man who had visited Wuhan.

January 15: The first case outside China is reported by the Thai authorities, a Chinese woman who had just travelled from Wuhan.

First death from coronavirus

January 11: The first death from the virus is reported by the Chinese authorities, a 61-year-old man who was admitted to hospital on December 27.

January 7: WHO identifies the virus as 2019n-CoV, part of the coronavirus family, which includes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and the common cold.

January 5: WHO advises against travel or trade restrictions with China, in spite of the outbreak.

January 3: Passengers flying domestically from Wuhan Airport are subject to temperature screening.

January 1: Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market shut down after being identified as the source of the outbreak, most of those infected worked there.

December 31: Chinese officials alert the World Health Organization (WHO) about a number of flu-like cases in Wuhan.

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