Timeline of the Covid-19 outbreak

This is my timeline of the outbreak of a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 that first appeared in Wuhan, China and led to a global Covid-19 pandemic. Besides the events in China, it may be also somewhat slanted to places I take a professional and personal interest in, mostly Singapore, Taiwan, and the Netherlands. Among the many articles previously shared on my Twitter account I rely on, I want to single out the China Change translation of the censored article ‘The Regret of Wuhan’ of China Newsweek, as well as the translated The Initium article ‘Fighting COVID-19 in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong’. Reporting from AP, Caixin, Reuters, and SCMP has been very helpful in understanding the early days. One caveat is that you have to ask yourself what was the content of the ‘report’ when certain persons or institutions warned others, not just note that a report was made.

I will continue to update this post as more becomes known and as people point out errors and gaps. Updated: 2020/07/05 16:13 SGT

6 October

  • A research article in Infection, Genetics and Evolution based on available genome sequences claims SARS-CoV-2 may have jumped over to humans for the first time between 6 October and 11 December in China. x

17 November

  • Likely date on which the first known Chinese patient, a 55 year-old, contracted the novel coronavirus, according to government data seen by SCMP. x

Late November

  • Anecdotal report of rise in suspicious pneumonia cases observed by doctors in northern Italy. x

1 December

  • Reportedly the date when the first known Covid-19 patient starts experiencing symptoms, an elderly man suffering from Alzheimer’s with no connection to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market (华南海鲜批发市场), according to a study published in Lancet. x

16 December

  • The date on which, according to Dr Ai Fen (艾芬), a female patient was admitted at Wuhan Central Hospital (武汉市中心医院). She was tested on 22 December, after which a diagnosis of coronavirus was conveyed orally. x x

17 December

  • The first double-digit rise of cases in Wuhan. x

18 December

  • Italian sewage samples taken on this day in Milan and Turin are later proven to contain traces of SARS-CoV-2. x

24 December

  • According to De Volkskrant, this evening Dr Lü Xiaohong (呂小红) warned her superiors at Wuhan Fifth Hospital (武汉市第五医院) after hearing rumours. Wuhan Fifth Hospital subsequently prepared a quarantine area. x

25 December

  • Dr Lü Xiaohong told China Youth Daily that by this date she knew the disease was spreading among medical workers, but only dared to privately warn some people. x x

27 December

  • Private lab Guangzhou Vision Medicals (广州微远基因) sequences the genome of a sample taken at Wuhan Central Hospital on 24 December and confirms a diagnosis of coronavirus similar to SARS over the telephone, according to Caixin, x x and shared it with Wuhan officials and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. x
  • Dr Zhang Jixian (张继先) of Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine (湖北省中西医结合医院) tells health authorities she suspects that a new type of coronavirus causes the disease. x
  • A single French doctor claims samples taken on this day from a patient with no recent travel history taken in a hospital near Paris later test positive, supposedly showing SARS-CoV-2 was already in France. x x

30 December

  • Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issues an internal emergency notice at 4 pm to health care in the city urging to offer treatment and report cases ‘in a timely manner’. x x x
  • The head of the Chinese CDC, George Gao Fu (高福), sees in WeChat groups that Wuhan has issued internal notices but has not activated the national reporting system. He warns the National Health Commission (NHC)’s leadership. x
  • Dr Ai Fen shares a photo of a diagnostic report showing the patient had a kind of ‘SARS coronavirus’ with a colleague. x x Dr Li Wenliang (李文亮) shares that picture with colleagues and is later reprimanded by hospital and police for that. x Dr Liu Wen (刘文) warns colleagues at the Wuhan Hannan Red Cross Hospital and is later reprimanded by hospital and police for that. x Dr Xie Linka (谢琳卡) also warns people and is later reprimanded by the police for that. x

31 December

  • China dispatches a team of experts from the NHC to Wuhan. x
  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission releases an emergency notice about a ‘pneumonia of unknown cause’ linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market with 27 confirmed cases, reports there are no apparent human-to-human transmissions. x x x (“到目前为止调查未发现明显人传人现象,未发现医务人员感染。”) x A later Chinese CDC report claims there were already 104 people infected at this point. x
  • A team arrives at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market to start disinfection. x
  • The local WHO country office warns Geneva after reading the Wuhan emergency notice, according to Emergency Chief Michael J. Ryan and an updated timeline of the WHO. x x
  • Deputy Director Luo Yi-jun (羅一鈞) of Taiwan’s CDC, browsing online forum PTT in the early hours of the day, stumbles across screenshots of Wuhan’s 30 December internal notice and the WeChat group SARS warnings of Dr Li Wenliang and Dr Liu Wen, and forwards them to his colleagues a bit after 5 am, helping to kickstart Taiwan’s response. x x
  • Taiwan begins screening flights from Wuhan x x and claims it supposedly raised suspicions of human-to-human transmission with China and the WHO on this day. x The WHO denied the latter on 10 April. x The email Taiwan subsequently released does not mention ‘transmission’, only that patients are treated in isolation, x which was also mentioned in Wuhan’s 13:38 report of the same day (“所有病例均已隔离治疗”). x
  • First reported online censorship in China: live-streaming platform YY adds 45 terms related to the new disease to its client-side blacklist. x

1 January

  • CCTV reports about the punishment of eight rumourmongers in Wuhan. x
  • Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market formally closed. x x Chinese CDC team collects samples. x
  • According to Caixin, a Hubei Provincial Health Commission official instructs a genomics company to stop testing samples from Wuhan and destroy all existing samples. x
  • Reportedly day on which the first patient with symptoms was recorded in Florida, US. x

2 January

  • A team under Shi Zhengli (石正丽) at the Wuhan Institute of Virology sequences the entire genome of the virus, x the first government lab to do so. x
  • Zhongnan Hospital (中南医院)’s Cheng Zhenshun (程真顺) is told over telephone by BGI Group (华大基因) that the sample of lung fluid taken from two patients with pneumonia of unknown origin is a novel coronavirus, genes matching SARS for 80%. A SARS test kit also returns a positive result for the two patients, according to him and Director Wang Xinghuan (王行环). The hospital warns the health authorities, who send experts. It will later be accused of a lack of political awareness over its many alarms. x
  • Taiwan reportedly tells its doctors to start looking out for patients with suspect symptoms, check their contact and travel history. x

3 January

  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reports that there are 44 patients with pneumonia caused by virus of unknown origin, no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. x
  • Doctors at Zhongnan Hospital believe the disease can be transmitted from human-to-human after three family members without connection to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market have a positive SARS test kit result. x
  • China informs the WHO in response to repeated requests for information on 1 and 2 January. x
  • China informs the US government via its CDC. x Director Redfield talks directly to Director Gao. x
  • Singapore starts temperature checks at Changi Airport for travellers arriving from Wuhan that evening. x x
  • Thailand begins quarantining some travellers from China. x
  • Vietnam tightens border controls and warns hospitals and health authorities. x
  • Dr Li Wenliang is forced by the Wuhan Public Security Bureau to sign a confession of spreading rumours and causing social trouble. x
  • According to both Caixin and AP, China’s NHC instructs all institutions to not publish about the disease or the virus’ sequenced genome, and transfer all samples to designated centres or destroy them due to their highly pathogenic nature. x x
  • The Chinese CDC also manages to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome. x

4 January

  • The Hong Kong SAR government launches its ‘Preparedness and Response Plan for Novel Infectious Disease of Public Health Significance’ (對公共衞生有重要性的新型傳染病準備及應變計劃). x

5 January

  • A team under Shi Zhengli at the Wuhan Institute of Virology isolates the virus and reportedly makes some results available to the WHO as instructed by the NHC. x However, according to AP, the WHO was still working with only minimal information from China at this time. x
  • Just after midnight, the Chinese Academic of Medical Sciences successfully sequences the SARS-CoV-2 genome. x
  • A team at Shanghai Public Health and Clinical Centre under Zhang Yongzhen (张永振) sequences the genome and finds it similar to SARS. He reports their findings to China’s NHC and the Shanghai government. The centre’s party secretary claims they already believed it was contagious then. Shanghai reportedly begins training some doctors. x x x x
  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission reports that there are 59 patients with pneumonia caused by virus of unknown origin, no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission. x

6 January

  • The United States formally offers the assistance of its CDC to China. It is not taken up. x
  • Taiwan’s CDC requests China’s CDC to let them send an expert to Wuhan. Granted on 11 January. x
  • China’s CDC triggers its level 2 emergency response. x

7 January

  • Date on which Xi Jinping (习近平) claimed on 3 February to have given instructions to the Politburo Standing Committee on containing the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. x
  • Wuhan University team sequences the virus and confirms Shi’s findings. China’s CDC still claims facts not certain enough, something certain people blame on competitiveness among scientists. x
  • The Wuhan Institute of Virology begins using the shorthand ‘2019-nCoV’. x
  • Mayor Zhou Xianwang (周先旺) delivers his report to the Wuhan Municipal People’s Congress as usual. x The usual focus on ‘stability maintenance’ during the politically sensitive period of the municipal and provincial Two Sessions was later blamed for focussing on cracking down over honestly reporting the situation.

8 January

  • Thai authorities quarantine a Chinese woman who later tests positive for an unknown strain of coronavirus, becoming the first reported case outside of China. x
  • South Korean authorities announces quarantine of a Chinese resident diagnosed with pneumonia. She returned from a five-day trip to Xiamen on 30 December and had been in Wuhan mid-December. x
  • Beijing Municipal Cyberspace Administration issues a censorship directive ordering that ‘content related to the pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan must follow information issued by authoritative departments’ (以权威部门发布信息为准). x
  • American newspaper WSJ reports that scientists have identified a new coronavirus in samples from Wuhan, embarrassing China and surprising Chinese scientists and the WHO. x x

9 January

  • China’s CDC tells Xinhua it has sequenced the genome of the new virus and finally admits it has identified it as a new type of coronavirus. x x x x
  • A Thai teak under Chulalongkorn University professor Supaporn Wacharapluesadee partially sequences the genome of the virus of the quarantined case, but have no way to prove its link to Wuhan while China has not published the genome. x

10 January

  • WHO technical guidance notes published on this day and the next warn to look out for the possibility of human-to-human transmission. x

11 January

  • First death announced in Wuhan, a 61-year old male frequent shopper at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market who died 9 January. x x The authorities do not disclose his wife has also fallen ill without having visited the market. x
  • After no updates were given from 6–10 January, during the politically sensitive Wuhan municipal ‘Two Sessions’, the Wuhan Municipal Health Committee reports that number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia is 41, that there have been no new cases since 3 January, that no health worker has been infected, and that there is no clear evidence for human-to-human transmission. x (“自2020年1月3日以来未发现新发病例。目前,未发现医务人员感染,未发现明确的人传人证据。”) x
  • According to Chinese CDC officials, the direct online reporting system stops working from this day until around 24 January, leaving only the paper route via local authorities. x x
  • Shanghai’s Zhang Yongzhen uploads the genome sequence to virological.org, angering Chinese health officials who temporarily shut his lab in revenge. This is the first time the genome of SARS-CoV-2 is publicly available, 9 days after it was first fully sequenced. This allows Thai officials to confirm the match and warn the WHO. x x
  • Wang Guangfa (王广发)—famous from the 2003 struggle against SARS—part of the second team of experts visiting Wuhan, from 8 to 16 January, says that the virus is ‘preventable and controllable’ (可防可控). x

12 January

  • The WHO says that the outbreak seems to be limited to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and claims that no health worker has been infected and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission x and that of the 41 known patients the first known symptom onset was 8 December. x
  • After Zhang’s disclosure, three government labs, the Chinese CDC, Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences rush, uploading the sequence to GISAID on this day, the first official contribution. x
  • Wuhan residents have told Reuters that around this day hospital respiratory wards in the city began reaching capacity. x
  • A team in Shenzhen under microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung (袁國勇) confirms that six members of a family of seven have the novel coronavirus, informs the Chinese CDC, but the six do not appear in official records. x

13 January

  • Experts from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan begin a two-day visit to Wuhan. x x x x The Taiwanese expert, Chuang Yin-ching (莊銀清), says they were told of family clusters and a central government health official said limited human-to-human transmission could not be excluded. x
  • Thailand announces the first confirmed case outside China. x
  • One of the two Chinese men who will be Vietnam’s first confirmed cases arrives in Hanoi from Wuhan. x

14 January

  • The National University of Singapore (NUS) emails its students with a survey asking students who have been to Wuhan recently to report. x
  • The head of China’s NHC holds a confidential teleconference call with provincial health officials to convey instructions from Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang (李克强), and Sun Chunlan (孙春兰), saying the pneumonia in Wuhan is ‘the most severe challenge since SARS in 2003, and is likely to develop into a major public health event’. The memo of the meeting says that ‘clustered cases suggest that human-to-human transmission is possible’. x A report of the meeting was added to the website on 21 February. x
  • The WHO’s Dr Maria Van Kerkhove says it is possible there has been limited but not sustained human-to-human transmission of Covid-19. x

15 January

  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission states publicly that there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission but now, for the first time, adds that it cannot be ruled out, although the risk of sustained transmission is low. x (“尚未发现明确的人传人证据,不能排除有限人传人的可能,但持续人传人的风险较低。”) x
  • China’s CDC moves to the highest level emergency response internally, level one, activates 14 working groups, and sends a memo to Hubei. The NHC sends instructions to the provinces. x
  • China’s CDC head of emergency centre, Li Qun (李群), stresses during a telephone interview from Wuhan with CCTV that many things about the new coronavirus are still unknown and talks about the need for protective measures such as face masks and ventilation to protect medical workers, as the host asks about the official bulletin stating that ‘the risk of sustained human-to-human transmission is relatively low’. x x

17 January

  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the number of confirmed cases are now 45, resuming reporting again after a lull from 12-16 January x, during the politically sensitive Hubei provincial Two Sessions, when the focus is traditionally on ‘stability maintenance’. x
  • The US begins health screening of direct and indirect flights from Wuhan. x
  • Xi Jinping begins a two-day state visit to Myanmar. x

18 January

  • Wuhan’s Baibuting neighbourhood (百步亭社区) holds its ‘10,000 family feast’ with reportedly 40,000 families in attendance. x x
  • A team of experts under Zhong Nanshan (钟南山) arrives in Wuhan. x x According to Reuters, Zhong’s team found that more than a dozen medical workers had already been infected, that Wuhan’s contact tracing efforts had dwindled, and that reportedly hospitals had not conducted a single test before 16 January. x

19 January

  • Zhong Nanshan’s team returns to Beijing to report to the National Health Commission. x
  • Xi Jinping visits Yunnan province on an inspection tour highlighting poverty reduction. x

20 January

  • First public instructions by Xi Jinping, which set in motion a large-scale response. x That evening the government sets up a task-force in Wuhan. x
  • Zhong Nanshan appears on CCTV and publicly confirms human-to-human transmission, government announces that medical workers have been infected in Wuhan. x x Zhong was told in Beijing that the total of confirmed cases in Wuhan was 198, three people killed, 13 medical workers infected. x
  • De Volkskrant cites internal documents claiming 501 medical workers were infected by this date. x
  • The woman who would a day later become Taiwan’s first confirmed case lands in Taipei after flying from Wuhan. x
  • The male Wuhan resident who would three days later become Singapore’s first confirmed case lands at Changi after flying from Guangzhou. x
  • The Hubei Provincial Department of Emergency Response Management holds its Spring Festival gala. x
  • Taiwan sets up its Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) under Health Minister Chen Shi-chung (陳時中). x
  • A WHO delegation from its Beijing and Manila offices begins a two-day field visit to Wuhan. x x

21 January

  • The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirms 15 medical workers have been infected with 2019-nCoV. x
  • The Hubei provincial government holds its Spring Festival gala, the provincial party secretary and governor attend. x
  • China’s PLA Air Force conducts exercises over the Bashi Channel (巴士海峽), south of Taiwan. x
  • According to Der Spiegel, a German BND intelligence report claims Xi Jinping requested WHO director-general Tedros by phone on this day ‘to hold back information about person-to-person transmission and delay a pandemic warning’. x WHO denies there even was a phone call and points out China already admitted human-to-human transmission the day before. x Chinese MFA called the claim disinformation. x

22 January

  • Singapore forms a multi-ministerial task force to deal with the virus x x and begins temperature screening of all flight passengers arriving from China. x
  • North Korea closes its border to foreign tourists. x
  • Wang Guangfa confirms on Weibo that he was infected with Covid-19 during his inspection of Wuhan. x
  • Senior officials in Wuhan receive notice from Beijing not to leave the city. x

23 January

  • The Chinese government seals off Wuhan from 10 am. x Other cities in the area, such as Huanggang and Ezhou, follow the same day or later that week. x Reports of overwhelmed hospitals begin to come out. x Some people are allowed to enter, but no one is allowed to leave, unlike the later lockdowns in Italy, where at least some patients are flown elsewhere to relieve local hospitals.
  • The Singapore government begins preparing quarantine centres. x
  • First two confirmed cases in Vietnam announced, two Chinese men from Wuhan in Saigon. x

24 January

  • The building of the first emergency hospital in Wuhan begins. x
  • Taiwan, relying on imports for most of its face masks and other PPE, enacts an export ban. x Pro-China and CCP-linked celebrities and pundits as well as KMT politicians use this measure to attack the government to this day. x
  • France announces three confirmed cases of Covid-19, the first known patients in Europe. It concerns people in Paris and Bordeaux who had travelled to China. x
  • The Dutch government’s Outbreak Management Team (OMT) holds its first meeting. x

25 January

  • Xi Jinping chairs a Politburo meeting about the growing crisis. x x
  • Hong Kong closes its schools. x
  • According to Politico Europe, Italy’s presumed patient zero—a German businessman who caught the virus in Munich—would have entered the country on this day or the next. x

26 January

  • Taiwan’s CECC announces compulsory 14-day home confinement for people returning from Wuhan. x
  • Li Keqiang is made chair of the newly established Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the New Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic (中央应对新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情工作领导小组). x
  • The US evacuates citizens and its diplomats from Wuhan. x China will later criticise Washington for closing the consulate. x

27 January

  • Li Keqiang visits Wuhan. x
  • Singapore rules that those who have returned from Mainland China within the previous fourteen days must serve a 14-day Leave of Absence if they work with sensitive groups. x
  • Duke-NUS Medical School’s Wang Linfa (王林发), co-discovered or SARS, tells STAT it’s too early to tell, but his gut tells him this will not be another SARS-like event. x

28 January

  • The European Commission actives the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to help repatriate EU citizens from Wuhan. x
  • China stops issuing travel permits for Mainland tourists to go to Hong Kong or Macao, to limit the spread. x
  • Germany announces its first confirmed case, also the first confirmed human-to-human transmission in Europe, a Bavarian man who got sick after a business visit from an infected Chinese woman who as asymptomatic at the time. x

29 January

  • Singapore begins temperature screening of all arriving passengers at the airport, announces measures for people with recent travel history to China. x
  • New guidance from China’s NHC says to no longer count as confirmed cases people who test positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic. x
  • Xi Jinping meets in Beijing with WHO director-general Tedros, who strongly praises the Chinese response. x
  • First EU press conference on the coronavirus, before an almost empty press room. x x

30 January

  • Singapore government announces each local household will get four free surgical masks, in a bid to fend off mask-buying panic. x It discourages healthy people from wearing face masks.
  • Cambodia’s Hun Sen says the country will not restrict travel from China to protect its tourism industry. x
  • First confirmed cases announced in Italy, two Chinese tourists who arrived in the country on 23 January. The country suspends air traffic with China. x China summons the Italian ambassador in protest, calling it an overreaction. x

31 January

  • The WHO declares 2019-nCoV a Public Health Emergency of International Concern while reassuring Beijing that this is not ‘a vote of no confidence in China’, advises against travel and trade restrictions. x
  • First meeting of an expert group of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), following report the novel coronavirus might come from animals. x
  • Singapore’s government expands its travel restrictions: non-residents with a Chinese passport or recent travel history to China are banned from entering or transiting in Singapore. x The Chinese government summons the Singaporean ambassador in protest. x
  • The Chinese MFA strongly criticises the US for warning its citizens to avoid travel to China. x
  • First two officially confirmed cases in the United Kingdom. x The UK begins withdrawing non-essential staff and dependents from its embassy and consulates in China. x
  • During a Health Security Committee meeting of EU member states’ health officials, only four countries indicate a potential need for more PPE in case of expanding crisis. x x
  • First confirmed case in Spain, a man who had been isolated on La Gomera in the Canary Islands after coming in touch with a German diagnosed with Covid-19. x

1 February

  • Li Keqiang asks the EU to facilitate urgent procurement of medical supplies as the Chinese government lifts taxes and tariffs. x
  • Vietnam formally declares the coronavirus outbreak an epidemic. x
  • WHO’s Mark Ryan tells STAT the virus can still be contained. x
  • Singapore’s case #42, a Bangladeshi foreign worker, falls ill. He is only admitted to a hospital on 7 February, after having previously been sent home to his crowded dormitory several times by other doctors. x x The dormitories later become a major hotspot.

2 February

  • China’s acting ambassador to Israel, Dai Yuming (戴玉明), apologises after comparing the travel restrictions on people from China enacted by Israel and others to countries turning away Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. x
  • Taiwan postpones the post-holiday re-opening of the school year to 25 February. x
  • Entry into force of the US entry ban for non-residents with history of travel to Mainland China in the preceding 14 days, x which had lead to an angry reaction from the Chinese MFA. x
  • Start of Wenzhou’s lockdown. x

3 February

  • The first repatriation flight of Taiwanese from Wuhan arrives in Taiwan, surrounded by much controversy over KMT-United Front selection of passengers, and inclusion of non-citizen relatives and unannounced Covid-19 case. x
  • Xi Jinping gives an important speech to the Politburo Standing Committee with orders on the containment effort x, a version for public consumption is published in the CCP’s theoretical magazine Qiushi, including the claim of his alleged 7 January instructions. x The speech coincides with a one-off spike in reported cases across China. x
  • Medical workers in Hong Kong begin a strike demanding full closure of the border with Mainland China. x Shortly afterwards, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (林鄭月娥) announces the closure of 10 out of Hong Kong’s 13 border crossings with Mainland China. x
  • Italy starts thermal scans of all passengers entering the country via international flights. x
  • At a WHO meeting in Geneva, director-general Tedros criticises international travel bans and says global spread is not as high as it could have been thanks to China’s response x, which includes domestic travel bans.

4 Feburary

  • Hangzhou’s lockdown begins. x
  • Singapore’s Ministry of Health announces that since the previous week all pneumonia patients in public hospitals are being tested for Covid-19. x

5 February

  • Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, the first foreign leader to visit. x
  • The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) issues a warning it will punish harmful content spreading fear related to Covid-19. x x

6 February

  • Dr Zhang Jixian is awarded a ‘grand merit’ by the Hubei provincial government for her early warning. x
  • Taiwan begins a mask-rationing system to deal with a shortage. x
  • Start of Taiwan entry ban to travellers from the whole of China, including Hong Kong and Macao. x
  • Dr Li Wenliang passes away at night, causing massive outrage among the Chinese people. x There is confusion whether he died before midnight or a few hours later, after another failed rescue attempt was ordered.
  • Chinese MFA spokeswoman Hua Chunying (华春莹) condemns in strong terms countries who cut international flights to China. x
  • A women dies in Santa Clara, US, later confirmed to be the first known American victim of Covid-19. x

7 February

  • The Singapore government raises its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition’ (DORSCON) level to Orange, triggering a host of measures from government and employers, including twice-daily temperature screening. x
  • The Chinese ambassador in The Hague successfully requests the Dutch government to allow a special flight from Amsterdam to Shanghai to ship the large quantities of PPE bought up by the embassy and Chinese enterprises to China. The Hague doesn’t expect the future shortage, despite the WHO issuing a warning for this on the same day. x
  • US President Trump strongly praises Xi Jinping after a phone conversation about the coronavirus crisis. x

9 February

  • China’s PLA Air Force planes encircle Taiwan. A two-day joint PLA Navy and Air Force exercise begins in waters south of Taiwan, linked by party-state media to Vice President-elect William Lai Ching-te (賴清德)’s US visit. x

10 February

  • The cities of Beijing and Shanghai announce new sets of far-reaching lockdown restrictions. x

11 February

  • Start of a two-day WHO expert meeting on Covid-19 in Geneva. According to the American Gary Kobinger, the Asian scientists were generally nervous, but a number of the Europeans thought the epidemic would not reach them. x x
  • WHO and ICTV announce SARS-CoV-2 as the name of the virus and COVID-19 as the name of the disease. x

12 February

  • US Air Force planes fly across the Taiwan Strait and Taiwan’s east coast. x

13 Feburary

  • Beijing replaces Hubei party secretary Jiang Chaoliang (蒋超良) with Shanghai mayor Ying Yong (应勇), and Wuhan party secretary Ma Guoqiang (马国强) with Jinan party secretary Wang Zhonglin (王忠林). Central Political-Legal Affairs Commission Head Chen Yixin (陈一新) is flown to Wuhan to head the response there. x
  • Hubei’s total number of confirmed cases sees a massive bump as 14,000 people are added after being diagnosed without test in a one-off correction. x
  • EU member states’ health ministers meet for the first time to discuss the pandemic, decline to take strong action. x x
  • Vietnam places Sơn Lôi Commune in Vĩnh Phúc Province under 20-day quarantine. x

16 February

  • Wuhan designates 6 hospitals for patients in critical condition unrelated to Covid-19 and 15 for taking non-coronavirus emergency patients to make sure these cases do not get ignored. 46 hospitals in city are dedicated to Covid-19. x
  • A friend of outspoken intellectual Xu Zhangrun (许章润) reveals that the Qinghua University professor was put under restrictions by the party-state shortly after Chinese New Year x over a critique of Xi Jinping. x
  • Start of the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19, in Beijing, the first international mission of this kind. x The reportedly still open attitude of Chinese experts at this time will not lead to follow-ups on this initial investigation. x

17 February

  • Date when US Navy patrol aircraft claims to have been lasered from a Chinese PLA Navy vessel. x
  • During a standoff in waters of part of the Spratly Islands claimed by the Philippines, a Chinese warship locks its guns on a Philippine Navy vessel. x

18 February

  • The US State Department announces that five Chinese party-state media are designated as ‘foreign missions’, namely Xinhua, CGTN, CRI, China Daily, and People’s Daily. x

19 February

  • About 40,000 people travel from the north Italian town of Bergamo to Milan to watch their football team play, an event the mayor lately blames for significantly worsening the spread in the hard-hit town. x
  • France sends 17 tonnes of medical equipment from its strategic stockpile to China, keeping it low-profile at Beijing’s request. x
  • China expels three journalists of The Wall Street Journal over the paper’s refusal to apologise for the headline of an opinion article. x
  • The head of Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM)’s foreign manpower management division tells employers of foreign workers living in dormitories to only send them to the hospital in case of a medical emergency, healthy workers will not be tested. x

20 February

  • Chinese and ASEAN Foreign Ministers hold emergency meeting in Vientiane, Laos, on response to coronavirus. x

21 February

  • An article is added to the website of China’s NHC reporting the 14 January conference call hosted by the Chinese CDC conveying instructing from Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. Source code shows the article was created on 21 February. x

22 Feburary

  • Announcement of the lockdown of the first towns in northern Italy’s Lombardy. x x
  • The WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 visits Wuhan for the weekend, inspecting two hospitals picked by the Chinese government and meeting with local officials. x They suggest other countries take heed of the effectiveness of the lockdown. x
  • Heilongjiang’s Harbin city officials say they have put four districts under lockdown. x

23 February

  • Xi Jinping gives a speech to an online audience of 170,000 cadres and military personnel with instructions. The event is billed as a ‘meeting’. x
  • South Korea goes to ‘red alert’ as the Shincheonji (신천지 新天地) cluster in Daegu expands. x

26 February

  • Announcement of the book A Great Power Battles an Epidemic: China Combatting Covid-19 in 2020 (《大国战“疫”——2020中国阻击新冠肺炎疫情进行中》), written under the guidance of the CCP Propaganda Department and the PRC State Council, summarising China’s experience fighting the epidemic under the leadership of Xi Jinping. x x However, it was quickly withdrawn, presumably because of the predictable backlash.
  • The Chinese Consulate-General in Chicago sends the first of two emails to the Wisconsin Senate with a proposed draft resolution praising China’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. x

27 February

  • First confirmed case in the Netherlands, in a man who had recently returned from northern Italy. x
  • The White House puts Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the American response. x

28 February

  • US President Donald Trump calls the coronavirus a ‘Democratic hoax’ during a rally in South Carolina. x
  • Italy actives the EU’s civil protection mechanism to request medical supplies, but will receive no response from other member states. x

2 March

  • Wuhan closes the first of its temporary emergency hospitals. x
  • Taiwan’s mask production reaches an average of 8.2 million per day as the CECC promises to reach 13 million a day by April. x
  • European Commission President von der Leyen announces the creation of a coronavirus emergency response group. x
  • The US announces reduction of quota of five Chinese party-state media’s US-based media workers down from ~160 to 100 by 13 March. x

3 March

  • The Dutch public health authority writes in an internal document that it only has enough material left to test seriously suspected cases. x

5 March

  • Residents shout ‘Fake! Fake!’ from the windows as Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan inspects the work of a neighbourhood committee in Qingshan District, Wuhan (武汉市青山区). x
  • The United Kingdom reports the first officially confirmed fatality. x

6 March

  • The first officially confirmed Covid-19 fatality in the Netherlands, an 86-year old man who was infected from an unknown source. x
  • The Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) issues its first instructions for the residents of the province of Noord-Brabant x, the hardest hit part of the country thanks to the timing of a public holiday and the annual Carnival festivities. x

7 March

  • Wuhan party secretary Wang Zhonglin calls for ‘gratitude education’ so the people will thank Xi Jinping and the CCP, leading to backlash. x x
  • US President Trump says he does not want the cruise ship Grand Princess to dock in San Francisco, because he wants to keep the American confirmed numbers low. x

10 March

  • Xi Jinping visits Wuhan. x An anonymous doctor told Kyodo News that Wuhan began manipulating numbers in preparation for this important event. x
  • Italy’s ambassador to the EU publishes a scathing attack on the lack of European solidarity. x
  • The European Council, the body of the EU’s heads of state and government, holds its first virtual meeting on the coronavirus. x

11 March

  • The Beijing municipal government announces that all international travellers arriving in the city must undergo a 14-day quarantine. x
  • The WHO declares the novel coronavirus a pandemic. x
  • US President Trump announces a 30-day travel ban on people coming from the Schengen Zone, attacking the EU’s response in a rare address to the nation. x
  • A doctor friend of US President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner begins sourcing for ideas on Facebook as it becomes clear Kushner leads a ‘shadow task force’ in charge of the American response. x

12 March

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) shares a conspiracy theory on Twitter blaming the US military for brining the virus to Wuhan, x setting off more disinformation and misinformation spreading by other Chinese diplomats and figures linked to the party-state media. x x
  • The Dutch government issues the first serious set of measures to reduce social interaction nation-wide. x
  • China’s NHC says that the country has passed the peak of the coronavirus epidemic. x
  • Ren Zhiqiang (任志强), a critic of Xi Jinping with elite connections, goes missing after publishing an essay highly critical of the Party’s coronavirus response. x The CCP’s discipline committee confirmed on 7 April that he was under investigation. x
  • The first medical team and supplies from China arrive in Italy. x x Controversy later breaks out in Italian politics over whether or not Rome had to pay for what Beijing advertised as ‘donations’. x

13 March

  • The US State Department summons Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai (崔天凯) over Zhao Lijian’s comments. x
  • US President Trump announces a ‘national emergency’ and says he doesn’t take responsibility ‘at all’, as social distancing measures begin in earnest across America. x

14 March

  • Spain declares a state of emergency and lockdown. x

16 March

  • Taiwan announces domestic production of protective gowns, which had to be imported from the US after exports from China stopped. x
  • Closure of the schools to all children except those of people working in essential professions begins in the Netherlands. x
  • China’s PLA Air Force engages in night-time exercises near Taiwan, a break with the past. x x
  • Chinese fishing boats repeatedly ram a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel off Kinmen, forcing it to repel them with shots in the second such incident that month. x x
  • Starting this day, all people arriving in Beijing from abroad have to be quarantined for fourteen days in specially designated hotels. x
  • The United Kingdom abandons its ‘herd immunity’ approach after a new report is released, PM Boris Johnson announces ‘drastic measures’. x x
  • US President Donald Trump begins using the term ‘Chinese virus’. x
  • The White House’s National Security Council (NSC) issues a denial of rumours of impending martial law or lockdown. x x Six US intelligence officials from different services later tell NYT that these rumours were amplified by a Chinese disinformation campaign. x

17 March

  • Cambodia border closes to travellers from five Western countries and Iran while its military drills with China go ahead. x
  • European leaders endorse Commission plan to allow member states to ban travel into the EU and Schengen Zone. x x
  • Start of French lockdown and border closure. x x

18 March

  • Taiwan announces entry ban for non-resident foreigners. x
  • Start of Belgium’s lockdown. x
  • Start of Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO). x
  • The UK announces the closure of all schools. x
  • China expels all American journalists of the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal (~13 people), demands those three and Voice of America and Time register certain information with the government, and withdraws working permits of some of their local employees. x

19 March

  • A Chinese central government investigation finds that the Wuhan police acted inappropriately when it reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang. x Chinese messaging stresses that Li was a Party member and that hostile forces seek to abuse his death to undermine the country. x
  • Entry into force of ban of non-essential non-resident non-EU travellers to the Netherlands. x
  • Start of tighter border controls in South Korea for all overseas travellers. x

20 March

  • German state of Bavaria goes into lockdown. x

21 March

  • Vietnam says it will suspend all inbound flights. x

22 March

  • SCMP reports that China does not include ~43,000 people who have tested positively for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic in its public numbers, unlike other countries x, meaning its total of officially confirmed cases should actually be 125,000 rather than ~82,000.
  • Russian aid arrives in Italy and is later driven in a military convoy to the affected area. La Stampa reports that 80% of the material is useless. x Later, Russia itself receives necessary supplies from China.
  • The UK orders pubs and restaurants to shut. x
  • Germany announces ban of gatherings of more than two people. x

23 March

  • Funeral homes and public cemeteries in Wuhan begin allowing families to collect the ashes of their deceased relatives and inter them. x x
  • The Netherlands announces ban of all public assembly as part of a new set of strict measures. x
  • RTHK reports people in Wuhan claim they are refused tests. x
  • All international flights into Beijing are diverted to 12 airports in different cities to take pressure of quarantine hotels. x
  • Li Keqiang urges officials to ‘not cover up reports for the sake of keeping new case numbers at zero’. x (“千万不能为追求零报告而瞒报漏报”) x

24 March

  • Ban of all foreigners from entering or transiting Singapore begins, with an exception for foreign workers in essential services. x
  • Fearing a second wave from repatriated overseas students, the Singapore government announces that all residents coming back from the UK and US will be brought from the airport to hotels to serve their 14-day Stay-Home Notice. x
  • In a blog post, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warns of a ‘global battle of narratives’ amid the ‘politics of generosity’ of China and others. x x
  • US President Trump says he will stop using ‘Chinese virus’. x
  • Hong Kong closes its borders to non-residents, except for travellers from the rest of China and from Taiwan, requiring them to quarantine for 14 days. x

25 March

  • End of China travel restrictions in Hubei, except Wuhan, for those with a Green Code on their health app. x

26 March

  • European Commission President von der Leyen attacks member states’ lack of solidarity in speech during special sitting of the European Parliament to address the coronavirus crisis. x x

27 March

  • Start of closure of all entertainment outlets in Singapore. x
  • China’s national film bureau orders all cinemas to close again after tentative re-openings. x

28 March

  • Start of China’s entry ban targeting almost all foreign travellers, even residents or others with valid visas, aimed at preventing a second wave. x Beijing had previously strongly condemned countries for enacting travel restrictions.

29 March

  • Xi Jinping visits Zhejiang in signal it is time to get the economy restarted. x
  • Starting on this date, China reduces international flights to the country by ~90%. x It had earlier strongly condemned countries for cutting flights.

30 March

  • Japanese destroyer and Chinese fishing boat collide in East China Sea, both sides blame each other. x
  • Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gets the right to rule by decree indefinitely. x
  • Japan expands entry ban to foreigners with recent travel history to China, South Korea, US, and most of Europe. x

31 March

  • China requires all medical equipment to have both domestic and foreign certification before it can be exported, after a series of faulty and substandard purchases in Europe cause headlines. x

1 April

  • With a promise of a donation of 10 million face masks to needy countries, Taiwan joins the mask diplomacy battle. x
  • China’s NHC says it will start releasing the number of new and current asymptomatic cases. x It does not report the cumulative total and still does not add them to the number of confirmed cases, like other countries do.
  • All people arriving in South Korea from overseas required to enter two-week quarantine from this day. x

2 April

  • A Chinese maritime surveillance vessel sinks a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands. x
  • The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that the Chinese-bought face masks the Dutch government described as faulty were ‘non-medical’. x The Netherlands subsequently denies Beijing’s claim it ordered the wrong masks, x but research by BNR later reveals it had ordered them from a textile weaver without real certification. x

3 April

  • Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong (李显龙) announces a set of new, strict measures just short of a lockdown, calling it a ‘circuit breaker’, to take effect 7 April, government no longer discourages healthy people from wearing face masks. x
  • For the first time since the start of the crisis, the WHO states that under some circumstances there may be some use to members of the public wearing face masks. x
  • Chinese MFA tells foreign diplomats currently outside of China to not return to Beijing until after 15 May, after some test positive for Covid-19. x

4 April

  • Day of Mourning in China for the martyrs and victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. x

5 April

  • Singapore gazettes two foreign workers dormitories, home to about 20,000 people, as ‘isolation areas’, as new clusters emerge especially in the crowed dormitories. x
  • Singapore starts handing out free reusable face masks to all residents. x
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hospitalised with Covid-19. x

7 April

  • First time since start of pandemic that China reports no new officially confirmed deaths. x
  • Singapore enters a lockdown as its ‘circuit breaker’ measures enter into force and a new bill is passed banning private social gatherings, listing only 12 reasons for leaving the house. x
  • Singapore sets up a task force under brigadier-general Seet Uei Lim (薛伟霖) to start addressing the situation in the dormitories for foreign workers. x
  • Vietnam joins the mask diplomacy battle with the announcement of a donation to EU countries. x

8 April

  • Wuhan city-wide lockdown ends, controls on residential compounds remain. x
  • China closes all land border checkpoints with Russia and places the Heilongjiang border town of Suifenhe (绥芬河) under lockdown. x x
  • In the evening, the Chinese State Council releases new guidelines that demand asymptotic patients are reported within 2 hours x and subject to mandatory medical isolation. x

9 April

  • All travellers entering Singapore from this date have to serve their 14-day Stay-Home Notice in dedicated facilities. x
  • WHO director-general Tedros baselessly accuses the government of Taiwan of orchestrating a racist attack against him, providing China with a tool to fight against positive coverage of Taiwan. x
  • African ambassadors meet the Chinese Foreign Minister to complain that Africans already in the country are forced to undergo testing and quarantine and that many are evicted from their houses and pursued by the police in Guangzhou and elsewhere. x x
  • Nigeria summons the PRC ambassador over China’s treatment of Africans. x Kenya and Uganda reportedly also summon the PRC ambassadors in their countries around this time. x

11 April

  • Ghana summons the PRC ambassador over China’s treatment of Africans. x
  • Chair of the African Union (AU) Commission ‘invites’ the Chinese ambassador to the AU to explain China’s treatment of Africans. x
  • Ho Ching (何晶), wife of Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, causes a stir in Taiwan when she shares news of Taiwan’s face mask donation to Singapore with the cryptic comment ‘Errr ….’, against a background of Facebook pages spreading baseless allegations that Taiwan seized masks meant for Singapore around its 24 January export ban and a deleted 13 April tweet by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin (陈川仁) attacking Taiwan over that issue. Ho Ching updates her post to thank Taiwan on 13 April. x

12 April

  • Starting on this day, travellers to Beijing have to provide a negative coronavirus test before checking into hotels. x
  • Heilongjiang’s capital Harbin announces residential communities with confirmed symptomatic or asymptomatic cases have to go into lockdown, extends quarantine requirements for certain incoming travellers. x x
  • German newspaper Die Welt reports that German MFA and intelligence warn that Chinese representatives have approached senior German officials to ask them to praise Beijing’s Covid-19 response. x China denies. x

14 April

  • France summons the PRC ambassador to protest Chinese diplomats’ spread of misinformation about the response to the coronavirus pandemic in Western countries. x
  • Kazakhstan summons the PRC ambassador to protest an article on Sohu that claimed that Kazakhstan was once part of China and wants to ‘return’. x
  • Singapore announces during the evening press conference that with immediate effect wearing a face mask when going outside is mandatory. x

15 April

  • CCP Politburo Standing Committee meets, its resolution a sign of the growing worry in Beijing: ‘the challenge currently facing economic development is unprecedented’ (当前经济发展面临的挑战前所未有). x x
  • The crew of the three ships of Taiwan’s ‘Friendship Flotilla’ (敦睦艦隊) disembark 6 days after arriving in port and 30 days after their last port call, in Palau, in line with quarantine rules. x x

17 April

  • Wuhan revises its official death toll upward with exactly 50.0%, from 2,579 to 3,869. x The Chinese government claims this shows its commitment to the truth and that it has never covered up anything, x leading to praise from the WHO. x
  • The US presidential campaign of Joe Biden responds to the Trump campaign’s accusations that Biden has been soft on China with an attack video of his own, confirming China as a major campaign issue. x

18 April

  • Officials in the Heilongjiang capital of Harbin receive a political demerit for failing to prevent the outbreak. x
  • Taiwan’s CECC reports the first three cases of a cluster on the Panshih (磐石), one of the three ships of the recently-returned ‘Friendship Flotilla’. A Vice Admiral and Rear Admiral are removed from their posts over not reporting cases of fever. x x

19 April

24 April

  • Controversy breaks out over Chinese diplomatic pressure on the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) to tone down its report on Chinese disinformation. x

26 April

  • Entry into force of loosening of Chinese export restrictions on Covid-19 test kits. x
  • PRC ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye (成竞业) suggests there may be a Chinese consumer boycott of Australian products if Canberra pursues an investigation into the origin of SARS-CoV-2, x causing uproar and a concern from the government. x

27 April

  • The Dutch representation in Taiwan, the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office (NTIO, 荷蘭貿易暨投資辦事處) changes its name to ‘Netherlands Office Taipei’ (荷蘭在台辦事處). x On the Chinese side, only the Global Times responds publicly.

3 May

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims there is ‘enormous evidence’ that SARS-CoV-2 comes from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, without providing evidence. x His claims were rubbished by Australian and British intelligence sources. x x German intelligence reportedly sees it as part of a US disinformation campaign. x

4 May

  • EU organises a virtual global summit and pledging conference for Covid-19 vaccine research that gathers €7.4bn. US and Russia do not attend. x China only sends a defensive ambassador. x

5 May

  • End of South Korea’s social distancing campaign. x
  • Singapore allows some TCM services to resume. x

6 May

  • Controversy breaks out over decision by EU ambassador to China to go ahead with publication of letter in China Daily celebrating 45 years of diplomatic ties with the PRC despite Beijing’s censorship. x

8 May

  • Taiwan starts allowing a limited number of fans to attend baseball games again. x
  • Japan files official protest with China over attempt by Chinese coast guard to expel Japanese fishing boat from waters near the Pinnacle Islands (釣魚臺列嶼/钓鱼岛屿/閣諸島) in the East China Sea. x

9 May

  • Seoul shuts down its night clubs after confirmed case found to have gone clubbing, leading to dozens of new cases. x
  • Chinese and Indian troops face off along the Sikkim border, stones and a fist-fight reportedly injuring four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers. x
  • New cluster of 11 emerges in China, in Shulan (舒兰), Jilin province. x

11 May

  • Starting on this day, Chinese journalists in the US with Mainland passports will only get 90-day visas from the State Department. x
  • Start of relaxation of some of the Dutch limits. x
  • Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan starts a three-day inspection tour of the Covid-19 response in Heilongjiang province, visiting the cities of Mudanjiang (牡丹江), Suifenhe, and Harbin. x

12 May

  • Singapore to allow barbers, some retail and manufacturing to resume. x
  • Start of China’s suspension of meat import from four Australian abattoirs, Beijing claims over health and safety concerns. x

13 May

  • Jilin (吉林), in the Chinese province Jilin, imposes travel restrictions after new confirmed cases reported. x

15 May

  • Launch of Baltic travel bubble between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. x
  • Removal of Shulan party secretary Li Pengfei (李鹏飞), replaced by Jilin vice mayor Zhang Jinghui (张静辉). The next day, five more city officials were relieved of their posts. x

1 June

  • Relaxation of restrictions in the Netherlands.

2 June

  • End of ‘Circuit Breaker’ measures in Singapore, start of Phase I of slow opening up.

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4 Comments

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