Here is a summarised timeline of the chronology of events from the day the virus was diagnosed, to when it spread globally:
November 17: Even though the virus was diagnosed on Friday, December 30, 2019, the first case of someone in China suffering from Covid-19 can be traced back to Sunday, November 17, according to Chinese government data seen by the South China Morning Post. However at this point, it was described as a mysterious SARS like pneumonia.
December 30: The first time the world heard about this mysterious SARS like virus. Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower, posted to a private WeChat group of his medical doctor friends. The message was that he has found a SARS like virus that is spreading in Wuhan hospitals. Someone in the group forward the message to others, and it went viral across the Chinese internet.
December 31: The health official from Hubei [province where Wuhan is], acknowledged that there were 27 people who had been diagnosed with this mysterious pneumonia and reported these cases to World Health Organisation.
Same day, Dr Li Wenliang was officially reprimanded for spreading rumors and disturbing public order for “spreading rumours” after he sought to warn colleagues about the emergence of Covid-19
It emerged that during mid December, Chinese authorities [Hubei] were already notified about this mysterious SARS like pneumonia showing up in Wuhan hospitals.
The government officials have publicly backdated the first case to be December 01, even though the confidential data say the first case was report November 17.
January 01: WHO working together with China to identify the virus and come up with course of action.
January 11: Chinese state media reported the first known death from an illness caused by the virus, which had infected dozens of people. The 61-year-old man who died was a regular customer at the market in Wuhan, and he had previously been found to have abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease.
January 18: The Chinese Central government broke its silence denying that this was SARS like virus and to dispel the rumors spreading through the internet.
January 20: A top senior government official admitted that human to human transmission was possible. Prior to this date, officials who spoke about this virus said human to human transmission was not likely. Hence Dr. Li was reprimanded.
Once China’s central government officials acknowledged that human to human transmission was possible, the course of action, not only in China, but globally started to change.
Other countries confirmed cases of the virus. The first confirmed cases outside mainland China occurred in Japan, South Korea and Thailand, according to the World Health Organization’s first situation report.
January 23: Wuhan is locked-down. All public transport in and out of Wuhan, including trains, buses and ferries, stopped. So far the virus killed 17 people and infected hundreds more. Over 60 million in the city of Wuhan were locked-down.
January 28: Roughly two months into the outbreak, China’s top court rebuked Wuhan police for punishing eight people, including Li, for “spreading rumors.” Online, on China’s tightly controlled social media platforms, many users openly praised Li.
A couple of police in Wuhan were punished for how they handled this situation.
January 30: The W.H.O. declared the virus a global health emergency.
February 02: The first coronavirus death was reported outside China. A 44-year-old man in the Philippines died after being infected, officials said, the first death reported outside China. By this point, more than 360 people had died.
February 07: A Chinese doctor, Dr Li Wenlian who raised the alarm on the deadly disease died.
February 11: The World Health Organization proposed an official name for the disease the virus coronavirus causes: Covid-19, an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The name makes no reference to any of the people, places, or animals associated with the coronavirus, given the goal to avoid stigma.
February 14: Egypt confirms Africa’s first case
February 17: Chinese officials draft legislation to curb the practice of eating wildlife.
February 28: Sub-Saharan Africa records its first infection [second in the continent]. Nigeria, confirmed its first case of coronavirus. The patient was an Italian citizen who had returned to Lagos from Milan.
February month: the virus has spread throughout the world. Europe, Latin and North America, Africa. Most countries start introducing social distances measures, crowds limits are introduced, events are cancelled, schools closed, local and international sporting events are cancelled, restaurants closed, airports are closed, borders are closed, global economies slow down. Some countries go on lockdown mode.
March 10: Chinese President, Xi Jinping visits Wuhan hailing “victory to Wuhan” and saluting its people as heroes. By making the symbolic visit, Xi sent a message to the world that the extreme measures undertaken by his authoritarian government were “highly effective”, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University and a government adviser.
“It also tells developing countries that China’s experience, if not its governance model, is worth learning or using as a reference,” Shi said.
March 01: South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize holds a media briefing at OR Tambo International Airport, formally announcing the government’s plan to repatriate South Africans citizens studying and working in Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak.
March 05: South Africa’s first positive case of Covid-19 in KwaZulu-Natal. A 38-year-old man has tested positive for the virus after returning from a trip to Italy. He was part of a group of 10 people who travelled to Italy and arrived back in South Africa on 1 March.
March 06: 16 students who arrived back in Limpopo from China self-isolate despite testing negative for Covid-19.
March 07: South Africa’s second case of Covid-19. A 39-year-old woman from Gauteng is diagnosed with the virus after returning from Italy with the same group of 10.
March 08: The National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirms a third case of Covid-19 in South Africa.
March 09: Four more cases of Covid-19 are announced, bringing the total number of cases in South Africa to seven. The four were part of the group of 10 travellers who recently returned to South Africa from Italy.
March 14: One hundred and fourteen South Africans are repatriated back from Wuhan, with several deciding to remain behind. After the groups’ arrival at Polokwane airport they are whisked off in four buses to the Ranch Resort to begin their 21 days of quarantine, along with crew and SANDF and SAPS officials who assisted in the repatriation effort.
The number of infections keep increasing in South Africa during March.
March 15: President Ramaphosa announces measures to be taken to combat the increasing numbers of infections. Cancelation of flights to high risk countries, gatherings of more than 100 are prohibited, schools to be closed, all mass celebrations during public holidays cancelled, church gatherings are cancelled, social distancing encourage, elbow greeting, no shaking hands.
March 18: SA schools closes and will remain closed until after Easter holidays.
March 19: For the first time, China reports zero local infections. China reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in the ongoing fight against the pandemic.
March 23: As the number of infections with the new coronavirus in South Africa keep rising, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.
March 26: Lockdown in South Africa starts for 21-days.
Ps: There might be other key dates unintentionally left out.