31 December – Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, informs its regional World Health Organization (WHO) office of a pneumonia outbreak, the cause of which is unknown. Whuan reports 27 cases and urges their public to stay indoors and wear face masks. Most of the cases are either vendors or patrons of the Huanan Seafood Market.                                                                                                                        


1 January - Huanan Seafood Market is closed in light of the pneumonia outbreak.

7 January- China reports that the pneumonia outbreak is caused by a new strain of coronavirus. The novel virus is named “2019-nCoV” and belongs to the coronavirus family, which includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the common cold.

11 January- China reports first death from the novel coronavirus; a 61 year old worker from the Huanan Seafood Market who did not respond to treatment and  died of heart failure on 9 January.

13 January- The first case of Covid-19 outside of China is reported in Thailand. It is a 61 year old woman from Wuhan who had travelled into the country.

17 January- China reports its second death in Wuhan.

20 January- A WHO report confirms Covid-19 cases in South Korea, Japan and Thailand, all of which originate from Wuhan. China confirms 278 cases.

21 January- The WHO confirms human-to-human transmission of Covid-19. An emergency committee is convened to determine whether this is a case for global public health concern.

23 January- China places the cities of Wuhan, Xiantao and Chibi in Hubei province under quarantine. This lockdown affects close to 56 million people. The WHO declares that Covid-19 is not a public health emergency of international concern, as there was no evidence of the virus spreading among humans outside of China.

24 January- Covid-19 cases in China surge to over 1000, with 41 deaths.

30 January- The WHO declares Covid-19 a global emergency, with 9000 cases confirmed across 18 countries.


2 February- First death reported outside of China in the Philippines; a Chinese man from Wuhan.

5 February- The WHO reaffirms there is “no known effective treatment” for the virus.

7 February- Hong-Kong puts prison sentences in place for any persons who breach the rules of the quarantine imposed by the country’s government to slow the spread of Covid-19.

9 February- China’s death-toll reaches 811, surpassing that of the SARS epidemic. A team of investigative experts from The WHO departs for China, made up of researchers from Canada, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore and the US.

11 February- China’s Covid-19 death toll reaches over 1000. WHO announces that the novel coronavirus would be named “Covid-19” as it was discovered in 2019.

14 February- Egypt becomes the first country in Africa to record a confirmed case of the virus, and France reports the first death from Covid-19 in Europe.

15 February- A speech by Chinese president Xi Jinping is published. The speech, from 3 February, suggests that the Chinese government was aware of the Coronavirus threat long before they alerted the public.

19 February- Iran reports two deaths from Covid-19 just hours after confirming the first cases of the virus in the country.

20 February- China records the lowest daily infection rate in the country since January. The total number of cases in the country stands at 74,576.

21 February- Italy reports the first case of Covid-19 transmitted locally in Lombardy, bringing the total number of cases in the country to six.

22 February- The first two deaths from Covid-19 are reported in Italy.

23 February- Italy confirms a third death. Local authorities shut down the Venice Carnival early and suspend sports events.

25 February- Iran’s deputy health minister confirms that he has contracted the virus. China’s daily infection rate plateaus, with 518 new infections reported.

26 February- Globally, Covid-19 has infected close  to 80,000 people with a death toll of near 3,000.

27 February- Italy’s infection rate spikes, reporting 650 cases with 17 deaths in total. The United States of America (USA) considers invoking the Defence Production Act. This would give USA President Donald Trump the power to expand production of key materials for national security.

29 February- Qatar confirms its first Covid-19 case; over the course of the past week, Covid-19 cases have been reported across multiple countries for the first time. These include Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Norway, Romania, Greece, Georgia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Macedonia, Brazil, Estonia, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, Lithuania and Wales.

MARCH 2020:

3 March- Italy’s Covid-19 death toll reaches 77.

5 March- The first case of coronavirus is reported in South Africa. The patient is a man from KwaZulu-Natal who had travelled to Italy as a part of a group of 10 people.

6 March- As global Covid-19 cases hit 100,000 infections, President Donald Trump signs off on an $8.3 billion emergency spending fund

7 March- Iran’s recently elected MP Fatemeh Rahbar dies from the coronavirus, as the country becomes one of the worst hit in the world outside of China with 4,747 confirmed cases and 124 deaths.

8 March- Italy issues a lockdown of around 16 million people in the country’s Lombardy region, in an attempt to quarantine the outbreak. Confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country grow close to 6000 with over 230 deaths.

9 March- Iran releases close to 70,000 prisoners due to the outbreak, without making it clear when those released would return to jail.

10 March- Italy extends the lockdown imposed on Lombardy to the entire country. Iran’s cases spike by nearly 900 and China slowly begins to return to work and daily life.

11 March- The WHO declares the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic. Qatar’s cases jump dramatically from 24 to 262 in a single day.

12 March-  Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirms that South Africa’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases stands at 19.

13 March- With Italy’s confirmed Covid-19 cases standing at more than 15,000 with over 1000 deaths, the WHO declares that Europe has become the new epicentre of the pandemic. The continent’s total reported cases and deaths surpass that of the rest of the world, including China.

14 March- South Africa welcomes home 114 citizens repatriated from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak. All citizens tested negative for the virus and were placed in quarantine for 21 days. A quarantine facility is set up at a lodge in Polokwane, Limpopo.

15 March- President Cyril Ramaphosa declares a National State of Disaster, invoking extraordinary emergency measures to curb the spread of the outbreak in South Africa. This includes a travel ban from high-risk countries, the closing of 35 land ports of entry and two of the country’s eight seaports, a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people and the consideration of a fiscal relief policy.

16 March- Somalia confirms its first case of Covid-19.

18 March- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declares a “Human Biosecurity Emergency” for the first time in the country’s history. No new domestic cases were reported in China.

19 March- Italy surpasses China as the country with the highest number of Covid-19 related deaths. The death toll in the country stands at 3,405.

21 March- Europe remains the new epicentre of the outbreak. Cases in Germany rise by 2958 overnight, Spain’s death toll rises to 1002 and Italy reports 793 new deaths bringing the countries’ total death toll to 4825 amongst 53,578 cases. The European Union (EU) suspends rules on public deficits, allowing countries to inject funds into the economy while attempting to contain the pandemic.

23 March- President Cyril Ramaphosa announces that South Africa will go into a 21 day lockdown beginning on 27 March as the country’s number of confirmed cases is reported at 402. The unprecedented step imposed strict regulations and restrictions on the country for the first time in its 25 year democracy. No one in the country is allowed to leave their homes unless under strictly controlled measures to acquire essential products and services. The National Defence Force, alongside the police, is deployed to assist with implementing lockdown measures.

25 March- Spain’s death toll surpasses China, with 700 new reported deaths. In the USA, the Presidency and Senate leaders of both parties sign off on a $2 trillion measure to aid their straining healthcare system.

26 March- Kenya reports its first Covid-19 related death.

27 March- As South Africa’s first death due to Covid-19 is reported in Cape Town, the country begins its 21 day lockdown. The first death is a 48 year old woman who died at Medi-Clinic in Durbanville after complications from the virus due to a blood clot in her lung. She had no history of travel. The United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for Covid-19.

29 March- The USA becomes the country with the highest number of infections in the world, with more than 124,000 reported cases.

30 March- President Trump extends federal guidelines on social distancing until 30 April,  warning that close to 200,000 people could die from Covid-19 in the USA. South Africa announces extended testing practices, including door-to-door testing and relaxing restrictions on who has access to tests. 

31 March- Renowned South African HIV-AIDS researcher, Professor Gita Ramjee, dies due to Covid-19 complications in KwaZulu-Natal. The USA’s death toll surpasses that of China. Italy reports its slowest rise in daily infections in two weeks.

APRIL 2020:

1 April- South Africa commences mass testing, particularly in townships and rural areas. Facilities such as drive through testing centres are set up. It is predicted that by the end of April 2020, the country would be conducted around 30,000 tests a day. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonia Guterres, calls Covid-19 the world’s “worst crisis” since World War II. China announces that it will release data which would make the number of asymptomatic cases public.

2 April- The number of cases globally surpasses 1 million, with over 50,000 deaths.

7 April- A team of South African researchers from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the University of the Western Cape's South African National Bioinformatics Institute (Sanbi) succeed in sequencing the genome of a locally sourced sample of the Covid-19 virus. They are led by Dr Mushal Allam. The vital information is added to an international database to assist global efforts towards a cure.

9 April- President Ramaphosa addresses the nation to announce that South Africa’s 21 day lockdown will be extended by a further two weeks, based on conclusive research and scientific advice. In his address, the President states, “If we end the lockdown too soon, or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence of the disease.”

10 April- South Africa’s Covid-19 cases exceed 2000, and drastic testing measures continue. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announces; “As of today, the total number of tests conducted is 73,028. The number of confirmed positive cases is 2,003. Total number of deaths has risen to 24.” The number of cases in South Africa appears to be rising slower than predicted.

11 April- The USA surpasses Italy’s death toll with a total of 20,071 recorded deaths, with cases of the virus reaching over 519,000 in the country.

13 April- South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize addresses the nation with Covid-19 related updates. He reports that the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country stands at 2,272. An increase in door-to-door testing is announced for the coming week.

15 April- A total of 90,515 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in South Africa, with the total number of Covid-19 cases rising to 2,506, with Gauteng and the Western Cape reporting the highest case numbers. 7 new deaths due to Covid-9 are reported in the country.

16 April- The USA withdraws their funding of The WHO.

18 April- South Africa’s Covid-19 cases surge past 3000, with two more reported deaths related to the virus.

21 April- President Ramaphosa addresses the nation, announcing that R500bn will be injected into economic relief funds to support those who have been economically impaired due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases stand at 3,465 with 58 deaths.

23 April- The Western Cape becomes the province with the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa, with 1280 confirmed cases. President Ramaphosa announces that South Africa will undergo a gradual risk-assessed phasing out of its lockdown in stages in order to reopen the country’s economy. The current lockdown is identified as Stage 5, and the president announces that from Friday 1 May, the country will move into Stage 4 of its lockdown, allowing some business and recreational activities to resume.

29 April- The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) announces a Covid-19 relief fund that will allow monthly grants of R350 to those who qualify from May-October. President Ramaphosa extends a national ban on the sale of tobacco products. The sale of these products was banned during the country’s stage 5 lockdown, and it had been announced that sales would resume once the country entered stage 4 of it’s lockdown.

30 April- South Africa records its highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in a 24 hour cycle to date, with 353 new cases reported. The total number of cases in the country stands at 5350.

MAY 2020:

1 May- South Africa enters Stage 4 of its national lockdown. Strict measures are enforced; outdoor exercise is only permitted between 06:00 and 09:00, food and service deliveries operate between 05:00 and 19:00 and a nationwide curfew is put in place, forcing people to stay in their homes from 20:00 to 05:00.

3 May- Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi hosts a media briefing to discuss the country's back-to-work readiness and workplace protocol.

4 May-  An estimated 1.5 million South Africans return to work, as some industries reopen under Level 4 lockdown.

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