THE YEAR’S Summary
An ophthalmologist in China became increasingly worried about a cluster of patients being admitted to the hospital where he operated – Wuhan General – with symptoms reminiscent of the 2003 Sars epidemic as the world readied to ring in a new decade.
On Dec. 30, via the chat group Weibo, Dr. Li Wenliang told his colleagues, advising them to wear protective clothing to prevent infection.
The 34-year-old was summoned to the Public Security Bureau four days later, where he was required to sign a letter acknowledging that he was making “false comments” that had “severely disrupted social order.”
Tragically, the whistleblower himself contracted the virus within a few weeks and died in February.
The World Health Organization’s country office was informed on 31 December of the presence of “unknown cause” pneumonia in the town of Wuhan.
There were over 40 patients, 11 of whom were seriously ill, and most of whom were seafood traders or vendors connected to the wet market in Huanan.
“within days”within days
“dramatic increase”dramatic increase”specific symptoms that would later be determined to be closely associated with the novel coronavirus.”specific symptoms that would later be determined to be closely associated with the current coronavi
However, when WHO released an alert on its social media on Jan. 4, explaining fever, breathing problems and lesions in the lungs, the first time the world knew of a mysterious new disease that would soon engulf it. Crucially, at that time, human-to-human transmission was not believed to have happened.
The genetic sequence of the virus was published by Chinese scientists on Jan. 12, paving the way for rapid vaccine production.
Two days later, “limited human-to-human transmission” and the “risk of a possible major outbreak.” were reported by the WHO.
The first case of the virus outside China – a 61-year-old resident of Wuhan vacationing in Thailand – was confirmed on the same day.
China enforced a travel ban to and from Wuhan on January 23, but by then an estimated five million people had flocked across the southeast to celebrate the Chinese New Year and, in any event, the virus had invaded Europe for a long time.
In January, China introduced temperature restrictions and travel bans.
While the first recorded case in Europe was registered in France on January 24, in a person who had just returned from China, it later turned out to be positive for a swab from a pneumonia patient treated at a hospital in Paris on Dec. 27 and subsequently analyzed for covid.
Sewage collected in Milan and Turin on Dec. 18 revealed genetic signs of the virus in Italy, as did sewage collected in mid-January in Barcelona.
A total of 7,818 confirmed cases occurred worldwide by the end of January, including in 18 countries outside China, and the WHO announced an international health emergency.
Like in the U.K. On Jan. 31, two Chinese nationals – a student from York University and a family member – left the EU after contracting the virus in quarantine at a Newcastle hospital, while 83 British nationals stranded in Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton to begin 14 days of self-isolation.
After a trip to Singapore, Steve Walsh became known as the Coronavirus “superspreader”
In the UK, it marked the start of the end of normalcy. Within days, following attending a conference in Singapore, a Hove businessman, Steve Walsh, became the first British person diagnosed with covid.
It is suspected that when he stopped at a French ski resort on his way home, he contaminated at least 11 others – including two British GPs.
Genomic tests later revealed that in February the virus arrived and started circulating in Scotland, mainly due to cases transported from Europe and before an outbreak associated with a Nike conference held at the Hilton Carlton in Edinburgh on February 26-27, where an infected delegate passed the virus on to 25 others – eight of them from Scot