As the number of Covid-19-related deaths passes the one-million mark, we look back at the beginnings of the pandemic and the key moments as the virus spread across the world.
9 January 2020 – First reported death
News of a “mystery virus” first emerged in China, with a cluster of cases in the city of Wuhan. On 11 January, Chinese official media reported that a 61-year-old man in the city had died with the virus two days earlier – making him the first known fatality. Then, it was described as a mysterious viral pneumonia.
Later that month, Chinese scientists said the mystery illness could be caused by a “new type of coronavirus”.
The outbreak prompted Singapore and Hong Kong to bring in screening processes for travellers from Wuhan.
At the time, there were fears the virus could be linked to Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a flu-like virus which originated in China and killed 774 people in 2003. There were also fears the virus could spread rapidly as hundreds of millions of people in China prepared to travel around the country for Chinese New Year.
But it was still unclear how the illness was transmitted, with health officials saying no cases of human-to-human transmission had been confirmed.
At that point, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was aware of the outbreak, it was in contact with the Chinese government and it was closely monitoring the event.
28 January 2020 – 100 deaths
On 28 January, we reported that the death toll from the virus had climbed to 106 in China, with the number of infections almost doubling in a day to more than 4,500.
By this point, the virus had spread across China and to at least 16 countries globally. Some 50 cases had been confirmed outside China, but no reported deaths.
Countries began to send planes to Wuhan to evacuate citizens. Meanwhile, the US urged its nationals to “reconsider travel” to China.
Wuhan and its province Hubei were already effectively in lockdown, with strict transport restrictions in and out of the area. Wearing masks in public was also, by now, mandatory in some Chinese cities. A 50-year-old man, who had travelled to Wuhan, became the first person in the capital Beijing to die with the virus.
Health officials determined that that the virus had emerged from illegally traded wildlife at a seafood market in Wuhan and said it could indeed spread between people. The Chinese authorities said the virus was able to spread during its incubation period and before any symptoms appeared like a normal flu, making it harder to contain.
The outbreak was declared a global emergency by the WHO on 30 January.
10 February 2020 – 1,000 deaths
The global death toll passed 1,000 on 10 February, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University in the US. As more and more countries were starting to see their first cases, much of the world’s attention was still focused on China.
We reported that the virus had claimed the lives of 97 people in one single day there, the highest number of casualties in a day at the time. The total number of deaths in China was now 908.
At the time, the WHO said the number of new cases in China was “stabilising” – but warned it was too early to say whether the virus had peaked. It sent an international mission to China to help co-ordinate a response to the outbreak.
By now, the virus had spread to at least 27 other countries and territories, but so far there were only two deaths outside of mainland China, in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, by late February, hundreds of passengers had tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan. A British man who had been on board the ship became the first UK national to die with the virus.
20 March – 10,000 deaths
As the number of deaths from the virus around the world passed 10,000, concerns turned to Europe. The continent at that point accounted for about half of the deaths worldwide.
The death toll in Italy – the worst affected country at the time in terms of reported fatalities – reached a total of 4,032. A nationwide lockdown had been imposed there earlier in the month.
Meanwhile, China reported no new domestic cases for the second consecutive day.
The number of confirmed cases around the world was at about 250,000 at this point, with more than 80,000 people said to have recovered.
On 19 March UK PM Boris Johnson said he believed the UK could “turn the tide” against the outbreak within the next 12 weeks. A nationwide lockdown was imposed on 24 March, when the UK death toll had reached 335.
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9 April – 100,000 deaths
By now, the world looked like a very different place from what it did three months earlier and the global death toll stood at 100,000.
President Donald Trump warned the US could see as many as 100,000 deaths itself but denied that his administration had acted too slowly.
By 10 April, New York had more cases that any individual country.
By late September, the US death toll would be more than 200,000.
Meanwhile, Europe prepared to spend the Easter weekend under lockdown.
Boris Johnson, who tested positive for the virus the previous month, came out of intensive care on 9 April. The number of deaths in the UK had reached nearly 9,000, with more than 70,000 confirmed cases, with London said to be the “epicentre” of the pandemic in the country.
29 June – 500,000 deaths
As the pandemic gathered pace, a new milestone of 500,000 deaths was reached.
At the same time, lockdown restrictions were eased in some parts of the world, and people in the northern hemisphere turned their attention to how they would spend their summer.
The EU said it would reopen its borders to citizens from various countries from 1 July, including Australia and Canada – but not the US.
At that point, half the world’s cases had been recorded in the US and Europe, but Covid-19 was rapidly growing in the Americas. The virus was also affecting South Asia and Africa, where it was not expected to peak until the end of July.
The WHO warned that the worst could be yet to come and urged governments to implement the right policies.
28 September – One million deaths
On Monday, the world reached one million recorded deaths from Covid-19. The US, Brazil and India now make up nearly half of the total, according to Johns Hopkins University.
However, the death toll is thought to be far higher as many cases may not have been been officially reported. In June, BBC analysis of death records in 27 countries found another 130,000 deaths that had not featured in the daily headline figures.
So what can we expect in the future? We are seeing just over 5,000 recorded coronavirus deaths a day around the world at the moment, says the BBC’s head of statistics, Robert Cuffe. If that pace continues, we can expect the daily count to pass two million in just over six months, he adds.
Health authorities have learnt a great deal about the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, but officials say the rise in deaths is set to continue.
“We see no sign of slowing of the death rate,” Nancy Baxter, an epidemiologist and head of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health, told the BBC. The world’s hopes are now pinned on the quick development and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.