Coronavirus COVID-19 Timeline

Updated: October 13, 2022
In this Article

    Timeline of the coronavirus outbreak showing how COVID-19 evolved in Wuhan, China before spreading to the United States and the world.

    Timeline of the Coronavirus Pandemic

    11/17/19: According to the Chinese government and data seen only by the South China Morning Post, a 55 year-old from Hubei Province could have been the first person to have contracted Covid-19. Note: This data has not been made public and could not be verified.

    11/18/19: The Wuhan Institute of Virology in China posted a job opening “asking for scientists to come research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats.”

    11/19/19: In November, there were four men and five women who showed symptoms of the coronavirus, but no one was confirmed as patient zero. They were aged between 39 and 79 years old.

    12/1/19: The Lancet studied the cases of 41 patients with suspected COVID-19 that were admitted to the Wuhan Central Hospital. This research noted that the first symptom onset date of the first patient identified in the study was Dec 1, 2019.

    12/10/19: Wei Guixian, a seafood merchant in Wuhang’s Hua’nan Seafood Market is one of the first reported coronavirus patients. The Wuhan’s Hua’nan Seafood Market was a live animal and seafood market also known as a “wet market“, selling hundreds of wildlife animals across many species.

    12/16/19: The Lancet research notes the hospital admission data of the 41 patients was from Dec 16, 2019, to Jan 2, 2020 and two thirds were exposed to the “wet market.”

    12/24/19: The Wuhan Institute of Virology posted a second job posting. The translation of that posting includes the declaration, “long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.”


    • A Guangzhou-based genomics company sequenced most of the virus which showed an alarming similarity to the deadly SARS coronavirus that killed nearly 800 people between 2002 and 2003. In the days to follow, other genome companies came to the same conclusion.
    • A Chinese doctor, Zhang Jixian, from Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, told health authorities that the peculiar pneumonia-like illness infecting people was actually caused by a new coronavirus.


    • Ai Fen, director of the emergency at Wuhan Central hospital, said she was reprimanded after alerting her superiors and colleagues of a SARS-like virus seen in patients.
    • Li Wenliang posts in a private WeChat group of his medical school classmates: “7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported [to hospital] from Huanan Seafood Market” and warned of a likely outbreak. The post was leaked online and circulated widely.



    1/2/20:  By Jan. 2, 41 Wuhan Central hospital admitted hospital patients had been identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoVinfection.


    • The police at the central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak was first reported, summoned Li Wenliang and reprimanded him for “spreading rumors.” Li later shared on social media his encounter and an image of his written statement.
    • China’s National Health Commission (NHC), the nation’s top health authority, ordered institutions not to publish any information related to the unknown disease, and ordered labs to transfer any samples they had to designated testing institutions, or to destroy them.


    • An expert team led by the CDC made a preliminary conclusion that the disease was caused by a new strain of coronavirus, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
    • A 61-year-old infected man became the first fatality, who had continuous exposure to the Hua’nan seafood market.
    • 5 days after illness onset, the 61-year old man’s wife, a 53-year-old woman who had no known history of exposure to the market, also presented with pneumonia and was hospitalized in the isolation ward. This was an early sign that person to person transmission was at least possible.

    1/11/20: WHO received further detailed information from the National Health Commission China that the outbreak is associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan City.

    1/12/20: China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus for countries to use in developing specific diagnostic kits, weeks after obtaining the genetic sequence.

    1/13/20: Thailand reported the first known imported case of lab-confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

    1/20/20: Three weeks after notifying WHO of the new coronavirus, China’s health ministry confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus.

    1/21/20: The first coronavirus case in the United States is identified. A Washington man returned from Wuhan, China on Jan. 15 and sought medical care on Jan. 19.

    1/22/20: A ban on the sale of all wild animal products in Wuhan was announced.

    1/23/20: China quarantined Wuhan to contain the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    1/30/20: WHO declares a global public-health emergency.

    1/31/20: The U.S. temporarily suspended entry of most travelers arriving from China, or who have recently been in China based on the virus being first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province.

    February (exact date unknown): Bat researcher, Botao Xiao, posted a paper on stating that “the bats carrying CoV ZC45 were originally found in Yunnan or Zhejiang province, both of which were more than 900 kilometers away from the seafood market.” Botao Xiao’s paper theorizes that the coronavirus originated from bats being used for research at either one of two research laboratories in Wuhan.

    2/2/20: The first coronavirus death is reported outside China, a 44 year-old Wuhan resident who died in the Philippines.

    2/7/20: The ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, who warned about the outbreak of COVID-19 died after becoming infected in Wuhan, China, aged 33 years.

    2/8/20: The first known U.S. citizen infected with coronavirus dies at a hospital in Wuhan.

    2/14/20: The first COVID-19 death occurred outside of Asia. The patient is an 80 year-old Chinese tourist who died in France.

    2/16/20: Due to rumors the Wuhan Institute of Virology denied that patient zero was one of their employees “Recently there has been fake information about Huang Yanling, a graduate from our institute, claiming that she was patient zero in the novel coronavirus.” Huang Yanlin has not been seen since 2019.

    2/24/20: China bans trade, consumption of wild animals due to coronavirus. “There has been a growing concern among people over the consumption of wild animals and the hidden dangers it brings to public health security since the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak,” said Zhang Tiewei, a spokesman for the top legislature’s Legislative Affairs Commission.


    • The U.S. announces additional travel restrictions involving Iran and increased warnings about travel to Italy and South Korea.
    • The first COVID-19 death in the U.S., a man in his 50s in Washington state.

    3/6/20: Trump signs an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to combat the outbreak.

    3/9/20: All of Italy and its 60 million residents are placed under lockdown.


    3/12/20: The NBA, NHL, MLS announce they will suspend their seasons. Other major sports and events followed shortly thereafter.

    3/13/20: The Stafford Act is invoked and a U.S. national emergency is declared over the novel coronavirus outbreak.

    3/17/20: Thousands of stores, restaurants, cinemas and bars across United States are ordered to shut down.

    3/20/20: Many states and cities across the U.S. issue statewide Stay-at-Home orders.

    3/27/20: The CARES of Act of 2020, a 2 trillion dollar stimulus package is passed.

    3/28/20: Stacks of urns and long lines raise questions about the true scale of coronavirus casualties in Wuhan, China.

    3/29/20: Global death toll from COVID-19 surpasses 30,000.

    4/2/20: The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses one million.

    4/11/20: The United States records over 2,000 deaths in one day. The highest death rate recorded for any country during the pandemic.

    4/15/20: Thirteen days later the number of COVID-19 cases surpasses two million from one million.

    4/16/20: Fox News reports there is increasing evidence the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory via bat-to-human and that “patient zero” likely worked at the lab.

    4/20/20: The Department of Defense extends the travel ban until June 30.

    4/20/20: President Trump suspends immigration to the U.S.

    4/24/20: U.S. death toll surpasses 50,000.

    4/28/20: U.S. exceeds 1 million COVID-19 cases.

    4/30/20: President Trump says he has a high degree of confidence that coronavirus may have originated in Chinese lab.

    Coronavirus Video Resources

    Coronavirus outbreak: A timeline of how COVID-19 spread around world

    How coronavirus (Covid-19) spread day by day

    Coronavirus: From mysterious origins to a global threat

    How wildlife trade is linked to coronavirus

    Journalist goes undercover at “wet markets”, where the Coronavirus started | 60 Minutes Australia


    Written by Team