January Timeline of Coronavirus

Image showing the total case number on different regions of WHO. Image credit: WHO

No one would have suspect that this coronavirus, which causes disease COVID-19, will be so much devastating and affect the globe in all the possible ways it can - from economic to social to the mental state of mind. We, the Earthers, have been facing this rapidly spreading air-born pandemic - COVID-19 for the past seven months, and no one can tell an exact month/year it will be required for researchers to design a cure vaccine.

As of 11:06 AM CEST, 24 July 2020, there have been 15,257,287 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 628,240 deaths globally, USA being at the first place.

Though some research suggests that the cases of COVID-19 may have emerged earlier of the actual reported date, first on Dec 31, 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province but they were unknown of that pneumonia causes. On the same day, the International Health Regulations (IHR) focal point in the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office was apprised of the case of Wuhan Municipal Health Commission (through a translated media report). The same Wuhan case was also picked up by WHO’s Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources (EIOS) platform through a media report (translated).

Consequently, after certain media holdings and its child institution acknowledgments, WHO requested the Chinese authorities about the reported cluster of non-typical pneumonia cases in Wuhan. As soon as the WHO got some information from the Chinese authorities, on January 1, 2020, they activated its Incident Management Support Team (IMST). 

In general, the standard of an emergency triggers the activation of WHO’s Incident Management System, which provides a standardized, yet flexible approach to managing WHO’s response to the emergency. The IMS approach is internationally recognized as the best practice for emergency management. Similarly, WHO activated IMST as part of its emergency response framework, which ensures coordination of activities and response across the three levels (Headquarters, Regional, Country) for public health emergencies.

Then, on January 2, 2020, to get themself and world population out of the perplexing new pneumonia case, WHO representative in China asked, by writing, to the National Health Commission and on January 3, 2020, officials from China provided information to WHO on the cluster of cases of ‘viral pneumonia of unknown cause’ in Wuhan.

So, after getting an update from its representatives and Chinese officials,  on January 4, 2020, WHO tweeted about the cluster of pneumonia cases - with no deaths - in Wuhan, Hubei province.

On January 5, 2020, WHO, for the first time, published news on the new unidentified virus including a risk assessment and advice.

Published on the news National authorities have reported the following response measures:

  • One hundred and twenty-one close contacts have been identified and are under medical observation;

  • The follow-up of close contacts is ongoing;

  • Pathogen identification and the tracing of the cause are underway;

  • Wuhan Municipal Health Commission carried out active case finding, and retrospective investigations have been completed;

  • Environmental sanitation and further hygiene investigations are underway.

On January 9, 2020, after about ten days of the first registered case, WHO reported that Chinese authorities have made a preliminary determination of a novel (or new) coronavirus, identified in a hospitalized person with pneumonia in Wuhan. The statement can be found here.

Chinese authorities have made a preliminary determination of a novel (or new) coronavirus, identified in a hospitalized person with pneumonia in Wuhan.

On January 10, 2020, WHO, based on the preliminary report of the new virus, issued a comprehensive package of technical guidance (online) with advice to all countries on how to detect, test, and manage potential cases and that guidance was circulated through the WHO's regional emergency directors to WHO representatives in the countries.

Similarly, because the preliminary analysis showed that the new virus somehow linked to a respiratory virus, hinging on the study of the previous respiratory SARS and MERS, WHO published its most possible mode of transmission, infection and prevention control guidance to protect the frontline health workers. They also recommend droplet and contact precautions when caring for patients, and airborne precautions for aerosol-generating procedures conducted by health workers.

Several teleconferences and meetings were held globally on the topic of the new novel coronavirus.

On 12 January, 2020, China shared, and consequently WHO published (tweeted) the genetic sequence of coronavirus (COVID-19). They stated that the outbreak is associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan.

On January 13, 2020, The Ministry of Public Health in Thailand confirms the first case in Thailand which is also recorded as the first case outside of China.

Also, on January 13, 2020, WHO published a protocol of RT-PCR to diagnose the novel coronavirus.

Now on January 14, 2020, WHO held a press briefing where they stated that “it is certainly possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission” which means that they found (till then which later they found human-to-human transmission through air and breathe-droplets) no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Also, WHO said an additional investigation was “needed to ascertain the presence of human-to-human transmission, modes of transmission, common source of exposure and the presence of asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases that are undetected”.

On January 16, 2020, Japan’s The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare informed WHO of a confirmed case of a novel coronavirus in a person who travelled to Wuhan which is considered the second official case outside of the People’s Republic of China.

Based on the then-recent information received WHO Western Pacific Regional Office (WHO/WPRO) publicized on January 19, 2020, there was evidence of limited human-to-human transmission. With this initial and threatening announcement, they published guidance on home care for patients with the suspected infection on January 20, 2020. Later on, when officials from WHO conducted a visit to Wuhan, WHO/WPRO on January 21/22, 2020, reported that there was “at least some human-to-human transmission”. They also highlighted that more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.

On the same day (January 21), the United States of America (USA) reported its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

Until then coronavirus has started to transmit beyond China. On January 24, 2020, France also reported to WHO that they have detected three cases of coronavirus for the first time. That was the first confirmed case in the WHO from the European region.

With the aim to provide a general introduction to COVID-19 and emerging respiratory viruses for public health professionals, incident managers, and personnel working for the United Nations, international organizations, and NGOs on January 25, 2020, WHO released its first free online course on the novel coronavirus on its OpenWHO learning platform. More than 3.7 million people had taken the course worldwide.

Subsequently, the United Arab Emirates reported the first cases in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region on January 29, 2020.