More than 170 territories have had at least one case. Due to the pandemic in Europe, multiple countries in the Schengen Area have restricted free movement and set up border controls. National reactions have included containment measures such as quarantines (known as stay-at-home order, shelter-in-place order or lockdown) and curfews.
Main article: 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic in mainland China
“Aerial photography of roads after motor vehicles are banned in central urban areas of Wuhan: few vehicle traces” – Video news from China News Service
The first person known to have fallen ill due to the new virus was traced back to 1 December 2019 in Wuhan. Doctor Zhang Jixian observed a cluster of unknown pneumonia on 26 December, and her hospital informed Wuhan Jianghan CDC on 27 December. A public notice on the outbreak was released by Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on 31 December. WHO was informed of the outbreak on the same day. At the same time these notifications were happening, doctors in Wuhan were being threatened by the police for sharing information about the outbreak. Chinese National Health Commission initially said that they had no “clear evidence” of human-to-human transmissions.
The Chinese Communist Party launched a radical campaign later described by the Party general secretary Xi Jinping as a “people’s war” to contain the spread of the virus. In what has been described as “the largest quarantine in human history”, a quarantine was announced on 23 January stopping travel in and out of Wuhan, which was extended to a total of 15 cities in Hubei, affecting a total of about 57 million people. Private vehicle use was banned in the city. Chinese New Year (25 January) celebrations were cancelled in many places. The authorities also announced the construction of a temporary hospital, Huoshenshan Hospital, which was completed in 10 days, and 14 temporary hospitals were constructed in China in total.
On 26 January, the Communist Party and the government instituted further measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, including health declarations for travellers, and extending the Spring Festival holiday. Universities and schools around the country were also closed. The regions of Hong Kong and Macau instituted several measures, particularly in regard to schools and universities. Remote working measures were instituted in several Chinese regions. Travel restrictions were enacted. Other provinces and cities outside Hubei imposed travel restrictions. Public transport was modified, and museums throughout China were temporarily closed. Control of movement of people was applied in many cities, and it has been estimated that about 760 million people (more than half the population) faced some form of outdoor restriction.
After the outbreak entered its global phase in March, Chinese authorities have taken strict measures to prevent the virus from “importing” from other countries. For example, Beijing has imposed a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all international travellers entering the city.
The early response by the Wuhan authorities was criticized as prioritizing control of information that might be unfavourable for local officials over public safety, and the Chinese government was also criticized for cover-ups and downplaying the initial discovery and severity of the outbreak. In early January 2020, Wuhan police summoned and “admonished” several doctors—including Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital—for “spreading rumours” likening the disease to SARS. Li later died because of the virus. Observers have also blamed the institutional censorship that left the citizens and senior officials with inaccurate information on the outbreak and “contributed to a prolonged period of inaction that allowed the virus to spread”. Some experts have questioned the accuracy of the number of cases reported by the Chinese government, and the Chinese government has also been accused of rejecting help from the US CDC and the WHO.
Although criticisms have been levelled at the aggressive response of China to control the outbreak, China’s actions have also been praised by some foreign leaders such as US President Donald Trump, and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump later reversed himself, saying “I wish they could have told us earlier about what was going on inside,” adding that China “was very secretive, and that’s unfortunate”. The director of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated Chinese government “for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak”, and a later WHO report described China’s response as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history”. According to a media report on 16 March, the economy in China was very hard hit in the first two months of 2020 due to the measures taken by the government to curtail virus spread, and retail sales plunged 20.5%.
On 23 March mainland China had gone five days with only one case transmitted domestically, in this instance via a traveller returning to Guangzhou from Istanbul. On 24 March 2020, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reported that the spread of domestically transmitted cases has been basically blocked and the outbreak has been controlled in China. The same day travel restrictions were eased in Hubei, apart from Wuhan, two months after the lockdown was imposed.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in South Korea
Coronavirus infection prevention tips banner in Seoul
COVID-19 was confirmed to have spread to South Korea on 20 January 2020 from China. There was a large increase in cases on 20 February, potentially attributable to a gathering in Daegu of a new religious movement known as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Shincheonji devotees visiting Daegu from Wuhan were suspected to be the origin of the outbreak. As of 22 February, among 9,336 followers of the church, 1,261 or about 13% reported symptoms.
South Korea declared the highest level of alert on 23 February 2020. On 28 February, more than 2,000 confirmed cases were reported in Korea, rising to 3,150 on 29 February. All South Korean military bases were on quarantine after tests confirmed that three soldiers were positive for the virus. Airline schedules were also affected and therefore they were changed.
South Korea introduced what was considered the largest and best-organised program in the world to screen the population for the virus, and isolate any infected people as well as tracing and quarantining those who contacted them. Screening methods included a drive-thru testing for the virus with the results available the next day. It is considered to be a success in controlling the outbreak despite not quarantining entire cities.
The South Korean society was initially polarized with President Moon Jae-in‘s response to the crisis. Many Koreans signed petitions either calling for the impeachment of Moon over what they claimed is the government’s mishandling of the outbreak, or praising his response. On 23 March, it was reported that South Korea had the lowest one-day case total in four weeks. South Korea’s approach to the outbreak includes having 20,000 people tested every day for coronavirus.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Iran
Disinfection of Tehran Metro trains against coronavirus
Iran reported its first confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections on 19 February in Qom, where, according to the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, two people had died later that day. Early measures announced by the government included the cancellation of concerts and other cultural events, sporting events, and Friday prayers, universities, higher education institutions and schools. Iran allocated five trillion rials to combat the virus. President Hassan Rouhani said on 26 February 2020 that there were no plans to quarantine areas affected by the outbreak, and only individuals would be quarantined. Plans to limit travel between cities were announced in March, although heavy traffic between cities ahead of the Persian New Year Nowruz continued. Shia shrines in Qom remained open to pilgrims until 16 March 2020.
Iran became a centre of the spread of the virus after China. Amidst claims of a cover-up of the extent of the outbreak in the country, more than ten countries had traced their cases back to Iran by 28 February, indicating that the extent of the outbreak may be more severe than the 388 cases reported by the Iranian government by that date. The Iranian Parliament was shut down, with 23 of its 290 members reported to have had tested positive for the virus on 3 March. On 12 March, the Human Rights Watch urged the Iranian prison authorities to unconditionally release the human rights defenders detained for peaceful dissent, and to also temporarily release all the eligible prisoners. It stated that there is greater risk of the virus to spread in closed institutions like the detention centers, which also lack adequate medical care. On 15 March, the Iranian government reported 100 deaths in a single day, the most recorded since the outbreak began. At least 12 sitting or former Iranian politicians and government officials had died from the disease by 17 March 2020. Per media reports on 23 March Iran has 50 new cases every hour and one new death every ten minutes due to coronavirus. Even so, some sources like Radio Farda, which is US-backed, says Iran may be underreporting.
Map of confirmed cases in Europe per million inhabitants as of 25 March 2020Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Europe
As of 18 March, more than 250 million people are in lockdown in Europe.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Italy
The outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Italy on 31 January, when two Chinese tourists tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in Rome. Cases began to rise sharply, which prompted the Italian government to suspend all flights to and from China and declare a state of emergency. An unassociated cluster of COVID-19 cases was later further detected starting with 16 confirmed cases in Lombardy on 21 February.
On 22 February, the Council of Ministers announced a new decree-law to contain the outbreak, including quarantining more than 50,000 people from 11 different municipalities in northern Italy. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “In the outbreak areas, entry and exit will not be provided. Suspension of work activities and sports events has already been ordered in those areas.”
On 4 March, the Italian government ordered the full closure of all schools and universities nationwide as Italy reached 100 deaths. All major sporting events, including Serie A football matches, will be held behind closed doors until April. On 9 March, all sport was suspended completely for at least one month. On 11 March, Prime Minister Conte ordered stoppage of nearly all commercial activity except supermarkets and pharmacies.
On 6 March, the Italian College of Anaesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) published medical ethics recommendations regarding triage protocols that might be employed. On 19 March, Italy overtook China as the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths in the world after reporting 3,405 fatalities from the pandemic. On 22 March, it was reported that Russia had sent nine military planes with medical equipment to Italy. As of 25 March 2020, there were 74,386 confirmed cases, 7,503 deaths and 9,362 recoveries in Italy, with the majority of those cases occurring in the Lombardy region.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Spain
People maintain social distancing in Valencia, Spain
On 24 February, following a COVID-19 outbreak in Italy, Spain confirmed multiple cases related to the Italian clusters, originating from a medical doctor from Lombardy, Italy, who was on holiday in Tenerife. Afterwards, multiple COVID-19 cases were detected in Tenerife involving people who had come in contact with the doctor. Other cases involving individuals who visited Italy were also discovered in mainland Spain.
Since 13 March 2020, there have been registered cases in all 50 provinces of the country. Only on the islands of La Graciosa (Canary Islands) and Formentera (Balearic Islands) have there been no registered positive cases. On 21 March, it was reported that at least 2,355 people were hospitalized in intensive care (942 in the Community of Madrid) and more than 350,000 tests for COVID-19 had been conducted. On 25 March, it was reported that 738 people had died in a single day.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom
People in London buying canned foods and toilet paper on 18 March 2020
The UK response to the virus first emerged as one of the most relaxed of the affected countries, and until 18 March 2020, the British government did not impose any form of social distancing or mass quarantine measures on its citizens. As a result, the government received criticism for the perceived lack of pace and intensity in its response to concerns faced by the public.
On 16 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made an announcement advising against all non-essential travel and social contact, to include working from home where possible and avoiding venues such as pubs, restaurants and theatres. On 20 March, the government announced that all leisure establishments (pubs, gyms etc.) were to close as soon as possible, and promised to pay up to 80% of workers’ wages, to a limit of £2,500 per month, to prevent unemployment in the crisis.
On 23 March, the Prime Minister announced tougher social distancing measures, banning gatherings of more than two people and restricting travel and outdoor activity to that deemed strictly necessary. Unlike previous measures, these restrictions were enforceable by police through the issuing of fines and the dispersal of gatherings. Most businesses were ordered to close, with “essential” exceptions including supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, hardware shops, petrol stations and garages.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in France
The virus was confirmed to have spread to France on 24 January 2020, when the first COVID-19 case in Europe and France was confirmed in Bordeaux. It involved a 48-year-old French citizen who arrived in France from China. Two more cases were confirmed by the end of the day; all of the individuals recently returned from China. A Chinese tourist was admitted to a hospital in Paris on 28 January and died on 14 February, marking the first death from COVID-19 in Europe and France. It was also the first death outside of Asia.[additional citation(s) needed] A national lockdown was put in place on 17 March. As of 25 March 2020, there have been 25,233 confirmed cases, 1,331 deaths and at least 3,900 recoveries in France.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Germany
The virus was confirmed to have been transmitted to Germany on 27 January 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Bavaria. The majority of the COVID-19 cases in January and early February originated from the headquarters of a car parts manufacturer in Bavaria. Later, new clusters were introduced by travellers from Italy, China and Iran. As of 26 March 2020, Germany has reported 39,502 cases, 222 deaths and 3,547 recoveries.
Rest of Europe
Disinfection of housing in Serbia during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic
Despite a select number of countries being particularly affected by bad outbreaks of COVID-19, many European countries, as of 24 March experienced far fewer cases of the disease. These include Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Greece, Croatia, Hungary and Bulgaria among many others.
Main article: 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United States
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 per million inhabitants by state
The first known case in the United States of COVID-19 was confirmed in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington on 20 January 2020, in a man who had returned from Wuhan on 15 January. The White House Coronavirus Task Force was established on 29 January. On 31 January, the Trump administration declared a public health emergency, and placed travel restrictions on entry for travellers from China.
President Trump signs the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act into law on 6 March 2020
After the first death in the United States was reported in Washington state on 29 February, its governor, Jay Inslee, declared a state of emergency, an action that was followed by other states. Schools in the Seattle area cancelled classes on 3 March, and by mid-March, schools across the country were closing and most of the country’s students were out of school.
On 6 March, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, which provided $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the outbreak. Corporations imposed employee travel restrictions, cancelled conferences, and encouraged employees to work from home. Sports events and seasons were cancelled.
On 11 March, Trump announced travel restrictions for most of Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) for 30 days, effective 13 March, and on 14 March, he expanded the restrictions to include the United Kingdom and Ireland. On 13 March, he declared a national emergency, which made federal funds available to respond to the crisis. Beginning on 15 March, many businesses closed or reduced hours throughout the US as a method to try to combat the virus.
On 23 March, it was reported that New York City had 10,700 cases of the coronavirus, an amount that is greater than the country of South Korea. As of 26 March, New York has had 285 deaths from Coronavirus. However, the governor says social distancing seems to be working as estimates of case doubling slowed from 2.0 days to 4.7 days.
The White House has been criticized for downplaying the threat and controlling the messaging by directing health officials and scientists to coordinate public statements and publications related to the virus with the office of Vice President Mike Pence. Overall approval of Trump’s management of the crisis has been polarized along partisan lines.