A Covid timeline

Governments should have known the effects of Covid 19, and the UK and US governments should have acted earlier. Here are some relevant dates. I am also including some personal dates, for what I noticed and the state of denial I was in. Denial is forgiveable in citizens, but not in governments.

December 2019

1st: the symptoms begin of the man whose infection is the earliest laboratory-confirmed case.

16th: First admission to hospital.

31st: The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission confirmed 27 cases, and advised people to wear masks in public, and not to go to enclosed public spaces.

A report goes to the US Center for Disease Control.

January 2020

3rd: Dr Li Wenliang detained in Wuhan on charges of “spreading false rumours” which “seriously disrupted social order”.

10th: genome of SARS-CoV 2 published.

20th: cases reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

23rd: China imposes lockdown in Wuhan. 25 deaths in total in China.

25th: UK government warns against travel to Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is.

30th: WHO declares Covid 19 is a PHEIC, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

31st: Two cases of Covid 19 are declared in the UK. 259 deaths in total in China.


6th: First death in US, in San Francisco Bay area. However this is not announced until 21 April, based on post-mortem testing by coroner.

21st: Eleven municipalities in Lombardy locked down. First Covid death in Italy.

28th: WHO publishes report of the WHO China joint mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019. It reported that the disease was not airborne, but could spread in droplets in breath, and by fomites, which are inanimate objects touched by an infected person, which then infect others. Most clusters occurred in families. In Wuhan, 1800 five-person teams of contact tracers traced tens of thousands of contacts, of whom between 1% and 5% subsequently tested positive. Initially, the R0 figure was 2-2.5. That is, each infected person infected 2-2.5 others. 6.1% of cases are critical: respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction/failureIndividuals at highest risk for severe disease and death include people aged over 60 years and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.

First death known at the time to be of Covid 19 in US, in Seattle. 21 deaths in total in Italy. 2835 deaths in total in China.


3rd: In the UK, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene. However UK Prime Minister ABdP Johnson boasts, I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands. People obviously can make up their own minds but I think the scientific evidence is … our judgment is that washing your hands is the crucial thing.

5th: first death in the UK is confirmed.

6th: I meet a friend for coffee. We usually met monthly, and I proposed we meet in April. She thinks this won’t be possible. I am still in denial. In the coffee shop, there are boxes of tissues on the tables. Shopping, I note there is no spaghetti in the supermarket.

9th: All-Italy lockdown. All businesses except those providing essential services are closed. 463 total deaths in Italy.

12th: WHO declares Covid 19 is a pandemic. UK announces move from containment to delay strategy: no longer necessary to identify every new case.

13th: Sir Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, defends government policy saying it could lead to “herd immunity”.

16th: I meet a friend, who tells me that as he is 70 he and his wife will be self-isolating at home for the foreseeable future. I arrange to meet a friend in London on 22nd March. I am still in denial.

New York City in lockdown.

19th: pubs and restaurants closed in London. UK government downgrades Covid 19, meaning that a lower level of PPE is required to treat patients.

All borders and entry-ports in New Zealand closed to non-residents.

23rd: UK-wide lockdown announced.

25th: Nationwide lockdown in New Zealand. All businesses except essential businesses are closed.

26th: Regulations on UK lockdown published, and come into force.

27th: Johnson confirmed to have Covid 19.

28th: Mr Amjed El-Howrani, an ENT surgeon, is the first NHS doctor to die of Covid 19.


4th: Keir Starmer declared new leader of the Labour Party.

7th: Johnson in intensive care.

27th: My first experience of a covid-related con. The phone calls saying “We’re going to cut off your internet, go to this website” have stopped, but this call asked for donations for the WHO. As always, I pressed the button to speak to a person, and the woman was surprised when I said, truthfully and believing it, that donating to WHO would be a good thing in the pandemic. She told me a manager would phone me back to give me the account details, and I should pay either £199.99 or £299.

30th: official death statistics China 4633, Italy 27,967, US 63,856, UK 26,771.


8th: From 7 March to 8 May there have been 49,833 deaths registered above the five year average, in England and Wales.

10th: Johnson’s public speech, not to Parliament, saying people should go back to work. Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.

11th: (Monday) Government clarifies they meant go back to work from Wednesday.

25th: Dominic Cummings gives a press conference at 10 Downing Street, and refuses to resign.


1st: further relaxation of restrictions. Most vulnerable shielding people told they can go outdoors. I don’t trust the government. Schools in England supposed to reopen: many do, some children return.


10th: I meet a friend for a glass of wine in her garden, for the first time since March.

I wrote this for social media debates on what was known and when. The WHO report is the moment when governments should take swift action. The UK death toll is the worst in Europe, higher than Italy’s, over 32,000, and I blame the UK government. In the week to 24 April there were 11,539 more deaths than the average for that week in previous years. This will include some people who did not seek medical treatment because of fear of going to hospital. Confirmed deaths from Covid 19 around the world were over 250,000. 22.5% of confirmed Covid 19 deaths in the UK are in care homes.

A government which does not believe in the value of government- to protect the people, to act for the common good- will not only be incompetent in acting, it will not understand what needs to be done or could be done. The British government has got rid of all its talent, which was not cravenly loyal to either Johnson or his destructive Brexit project, and shows worrying signs of caring more about appearances than reality: it claimed to reach its 100,000 tests a day target on 30 April, by counting tests which did not have a result communicated to a person tested, and the figure has dropped since. It would be better if they acknowledged that testing is important, and stated clearly what they were achieving, because when their pretense is stripped away they only look worse.

Additional deaths are the best way to find how many the pandemic is killing. The figures from the Office of National Statistics, for England and Wales not Scotland and Northern Ireland, for previous weeks are here. The figures for the official death toll, being UK deaths in hospital after a positive test, are here. How many deaths above the five year average were there in England and Wales?

Week to 13 March: 5 Covid deaths registered, 186 extra deaths.
Week to 20 March: 103 Covid deaths registered, 72  extra deaths. 258 cumulative.
Week to 27 March: 539 Covid deaths registered, 1011 extra deaths. 1269 cumulative.
Week to 3 April: 3475 Covid deaths registered, 6082 extra deaths. 7351 cumulative.
Week to 10 April: 6213 Covid deaths registered, 7996 extra deaths. 15,347 cumulative.
Week to 17 April: 8758 Covid deaths registered, 11,854 extra deaths. 27,201 cumulative.
Week to 24 April: 8237 Covid deaths registered, 11,539 extra deaths. 38,740 cumulative.
Week to 1 May: 6035 Covid deaths registered, 8012 extra deaths. 46,752 cumulative.
Week to 8 May: 3930 Covid deaths registered, 3081 extra deaths. 49,833 cumulative.
Week to 15 May: 3810 Covid deaths registered, 4385 extra deaths. 54,218 cumulative.
Week to 22 May: 2589 Covid deaths registered, 2348 extra deaths, 56,566 cumulative.
Week to 29 May: 1822 Covid deaths registered, 1653 extra deaths, 58,219 cumulative.
Week to 5 June: 1588 Covid deaths registered, 732 extra deaths, 58,951 cumulative.
Week to 12 June: 1114 Covid deaths registered, 559 extra deaths, 59,510 cumulative.

Between 7 March and 12 June, 48,218 deaths included Covid on the death certificate in England and Wales. There were 59510 deaths above the five year average. In January 2021, there were 32,049 covid deaths in England.

More links:

14 April: NYT: New York ER doctor’s diary.
14 May (sic): NY Review of Books: Trump the Vector in Chief by Fintan O’Toole.
7 April: The Atlantic: Jacinda Ardern‘s leadership.
Ongoing: British experiences of working in healthcare.

3 thoughts on “A Covid timeline

  1. What was the date and/or the event that shook you out of your denial? I was an early adopter of the social distancing and sanitizing, myself.


    • The lockdown here, so mid-March. I thought, well, it’s about, but did not want to stop such social contact as I had until I was told to. That R0 number of 3, or 2.5, or whatever. If a person is infectious for two days before showing symptoms, most people meet, even talk with, leave alone come within two metres of a lot more people than three in a day. Even though I touch my face all the time, I wanted to shake hands.


      • Tempering the egos of government officials seems to be more difficult than mitigating the spread of a virus. They preach of metrics, and we must listen for the prosody.

        Liked by 1 person

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