2019–20 coronavirus pandemic
Map of confirmed cases per capita as of 28 March 2020[update]
|Disease||Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)|
|Virus strain||Severe acute respiratory syndrome|
coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
|Source||Bats or possibly pangolins|
|Location||Worldwide (list of locations)|
|First outbreak||Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market|
|Index case||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Date||1 December 2019 – ongoing|
(3 months and 4 weeks)
The 2019–2020 coronavirus pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March. As of 28 March 2020[update], more than 605,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 200 countries and territories, resulting in approximately 27,600 deaths. More than 134,000 people have since recovered.
The virus is mainly spread during close contact and via respiratory droplets discharged when people cough or sneeze. Respiratory droplets may be produced during breathing but the virus is not considered airborne. People may also catch COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then their face. It is most contagious when people are symptomatic, although spread may be possible before symptoms appear. The time between exposure and symptom onset is typically around five days, but may range from 2 to 14 days. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Complications may include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. There is no known vaccine or specific antiviral treatment. Primary treatment is symptomatic and supportive therapy. Recommended preventive measures include hand washing, covering one's mouth when coughing, maintaining distance from other people, and monitoring and self-isolation for people who suspect they are infected.
Efforts to prevent the virus spreading include travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, workplace hazard controls, event postponements and cancellations, and facility closures. These include the first (arguably successful) quarantine of Hubei, national or regional quarantines elsewhere in the world, curfew measures in China and South Korea, various border closures or incoming passenger restrictions, screening at airports and train stations, and outgoing passenger travel bans. Schools and universities have closed either on a nationwide or local basis in more than 124 countries, affecting more than 1.2 billion students.
The pandemic has led to severe global socioeconomic disruption, the postponement or cancellation of sporting, religious, and cultural events, and widespread fears of supply shortages which have spurred panic buying. Misinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus have spread online, and there have been incidents of xenophobia and racism against Chinese and other East and Southeast Asian people.
|United Arab Emirates||405||2||55|||
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||237||4||5|||
|Trinidad and Tobago||66||2||1|||
|Isle of Man||29||0||0|||
|Republic of the Congo||4||0||0|||
|Antigua and Barbuda||3||0||0|||
|Central African Republic||3||0||0|||
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||2||0||0|||
|Papua New Guinea||1||0||0|||
|St. Vincent and the Grenadines||1||0||0|||
|As of 28 March 2020 (UTC) · History of cases: China, international|
Health authorities in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, China, reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause on 31 December 2019, and an investigation was launched in early January 2020. The cases mostly had links to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and so the virus is thought to have a zoonotic origin. The virus that caused the outbreak is known as SARS-CoV-2, a newly discovered virus closely related to bat coronaviruses, pangolin coronaviruses and SARS-CoV.
The earliest known person with symptoms was later traced back to 1 December 2019, someone who did not have visible connections with the later wet market's cluster. Of the early cluster of cases reported in December 2019, two-thirds were found to have a link with the market. On 13 March 2020, an unverified report from South China Morning Post suggested that a 55-year-old from Hubei province may have been the first case identified on 17 November 2019.
On 26 February 2020, the WHO reported that, as new cases reportedly dropped in China but suddenly increased in Italy, Iran, and South Korea, the number of new cases outside China had exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time. There may be substantial underreporting of cases, particularly those with milder symptoms, Some governments have had an official policy of not testing those with only mild symptoms, including Switzerland and Italy. By 26 February, relatively few cases have been reported among youth, with those 19 and under making up 2.4% of cases worldwide.
The time from development of symptoms to death has been between 6 and 41 days, with the most common being 14 days. By 27 March, more than 26,300 deaths had been attributed to COVID-19. In China, about 80% of deaths were in those over 60, and 75% had pre-existing health conditions including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
The first confirmed death was on 9 January 2020 in Wuhan. The first death outside China occurred on 1 February in the Philippines, and the first death outside Asia was in France on 14 February. By 28 February, outside mainland China, more than a dozen deaths each were recorded in Iran, South Korea, and Italy. By 13 March, more than forty countries and territories had reported deaths, on every continent except Antarctica.
A number of measures of mortality are being tracked. The WHO estimated the global crude mortality rate (cumulative deaths divided by cumulative reported infections) to be 3% to 4% as of 6 March 2020. The case-fatality rate (CFR) is the proportion of persons diagnosed with a particular condition (cases) who subsequently die from that condition, having been adjusted for the time lapse between infection and death; estimates of the CFR vary from 1.4% to 2.3%. The infection mortality rate (IFR), which tries to adjust for undiagnosed infections, has been estimated at 0.29% as of 22 March 2020 by Oxford's Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine.
Over time, estimates for the CFR in China decreased from 17.3% (for those with symptom onset 1–10 January 2020) to 0.7% (for those with symptom onset after 1 February 2020).
Total confirmed cases of COVID-19 per million people, 25 March 2020
Total confirmed deaths due to COVID-19 per million people, 25 March 2020
Epidemic curve of COVID-19 by date of report
Semi-log graph showing the change in total (cumulative) count from the first reported date for the ten most affected countries
The WHO asserts that this pandemic can be controlled. Predicting the peak and ultimate duration of the outbreak is uncertain and may differ in different places. Maciej Boni of Penn State University stated, "Left unchecked, infectious outbreaks typically plateau and then start to decline when the disease runs out of available hosts. But it's almost impossible to make any sensible projection right now about when that will be". However, with intervention, the Chinese government's senior medical adviser Zhong Nanshan argued that "it could be over by June" if all countries can be mobilized to follow WHO's advice on measures on stopping the spread of the virus. Adam Kucharski of London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine stated that SARS-CoV-2 "is going to be circulating, potentially for a year or two". According to the Imperial College study led by Neil Ferguson, physical distancing and other measures would be required "until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)". William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University stated, "I think it's unlikely that this coronavirus—because it's so readily transmissible—will disappear completely" and it "might turn into a seasonal disease, making a comeback every year". The virulence of the comeback would depend on herd immunity and the extent of mutation.
Signs and symptoms
|Anosmia (loss of smell)||30–66%|
|Shortness of breath||18.6%|
|Muscle pain or joint pain||14.8%|
|Nausea or vomiting||5.0%|
Symptoms of COVID-19 are non-specific and those infected may either be asymptomatic or develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, or muscle pain. The typical signs and symptoms and their prevalence are shown in the corresponding table. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists emergency symptoms including difficulty breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, sudden confusion, difficulty waking, and bluish face or lips; immediate medical attention is advised if these symptoms are present.
Further development of the disease can lead to severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis, septic shock and death. Some of those infected may be asymptomatic, returning test results that confirm infection but show no clinical symptoms, so researchers have issued advice that those with close contact to confirmed infected people should be closely monitored and examined to rule out infection. Chinese estimates of the asymptomatic ratio range from few to 44%.
The usual incubation period (the time between infection and symptom onset) ranges from one to 14 days; it is most commonly five days. In one case, it may have had an incubation period of 27 days.
Details about how the disease is spread are still being determined. The World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control states that it is primarily spread during close contact and via respiratory droplets produced when people cough or sneeze; with close contact being within 1 to 2 meters (3 to 6 feet). Respiratory droplets may also be produced during breathing out, including when talking, though the virus is not thought to be airborne for extended time periods. It may also spread when one touches a contaminated surface and then their eyes, nose, or mouth. While there are concerns it may spread via feces this risk is believed to be low.
It is most contagious when people are symptomatic. Although spread may be possible before symptoms appear, the risk is very low. The virus seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community in some areas. The EDCD states that while it is not entirely clear how easily the disease spreads, one person generally infects two to three others.
To test how far droplets travel, five medical professionals at National University Hospital in Singapore engaged in a very straightforward study. Each gargled with either red or blue food dye and then sat in a chair and coughed with an open mouth. Four of the five had droplets travel farther than the WHO-recommended safe exclusion distance of two meters. One person coughed four-and-a-half meters. The average was two-and-a-half meters. The use of a high-flow nasal cannula increased travel distance by approximately half a meter.
The virus can remain infectious for hours to days on surfaces. Specifically the virus was infectious for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel, for one day on cardboard, and for up to four hours on copper. This however varies based on the humidity and temperature. Surfaces may be decontaminated with a number of solutions (within one minute for a stainless steel surface), including 62–71% ethanol, 50–100% isopropanol, 0.1% sodium hypochlorite, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide, and 0.2–7.5% povidone-iodine. Other solutions such as benzalkonium chloride and chlorhexidine gluconate are less effective.
One study found that small droplets with coronavirus, generated by laboratory equipment, could stay airborne for three hours. WHO responded that this generation of droplets does not reflect coughing or the healthcare setting and that it is well known that these droplets can be produced during certain medical procedures. Concern has been expressed that the term "airborne" in the more technical sense might be misunderstood by the intelligent lay person.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus, first isolated from three people with pneumonia connected to the cluster of acute respiratory illness cases in Wuhan. All features of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus occur in related coronaviruses in nature.
Outside the human body, the virus is killed by soap, which bursts its protective bubble.
SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to the original SARS-CoV. It is thought to have a zoonotic origin. Genetic analysis has revealed that the coronavirus genetically clusters with the genus Betacoronavirus, in subgenus Sarbecovirus (lineage B) together with two bat-derived strains. It is 96% identical at the whole genome level to other bat coronavirus samples (BatCov RaTG13). In February 2020, Chinese researchers found that there is only one amino acid difference in certain parts of the genome sequences between the viruses from pangolins and those from humans, however, whole-genome comparison to date found at most 92% of genetic material shared between pangolin coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2, which is insufficient to prove pangolins to be the intermediate host.
Infection by the virus can be provisionally diagnosed on the basis of symptoms, though confirmation is ultimately by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) of infected secretions (71% sensitivity) or CT imaging (98% sensitivity).
The WHO has published several RNA testing protocols for SARS-CoV-2, with the first issued on 17 January. Testing uses real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR). The test can be done on respiratory or blood samples. Results are generally available within a few hours to days.
A person is considered at risk if they have travelled to an area with ongoing community transmission within the previous 14 days, or have had close contact with an infected person. Common key indicators include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Other possible indicators include fatigue, myalgia, anorexia, sputum production and sore throat.
Characteristic imaging features on radiographs and computed tomography (CT) of symptomatic patients include asymmetric peripheral ground glass opacities and absent pleural effusions. The Italian Radiological Society is compiling an international online database of imaging findings for confirmed cases. Due to overlap with other infections such as adenovirus, imaging without confirmation by PCR is of limited specificity in identifying COVID-19. However, a large study in China compared chest CT results to PCR and demonstrated that though imaging is less specific for the infection, it is faster and more sensitive, suggesting its consideration as a screening tool in epidemic areas. Artificial intelligence based convolutional neural networks have been developed to detect imaging features of the virus with both radiographs and CT.
Strategies for preventing transmission of the disease include overall good personal hygiene, hand washing, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, coughing/sneezing into a tissue and putting the tissue directly into a dustbin. Those who may already have the infection have been advised to wear a surgical mask in public. Physical distancing measures are also recommended to prevent transmission.
Many governments have restricted or advised against all non-essential travel to and from countries and areas affected by the outbreak. However, the virus has reached the stage of community spread in large parts of the world. This means that the virus is spreading within communities whose members have not travelled to areas with widespread transmission.
Contact tracing is an important method for health authorities to determine the source of an infection and to prevent further transmission. Misconceptions are circulating about how to prevent infection, for example: rinsing the nose and gargling with mouthwash are not effective. As of 23 March 2020, there is no COVID-19 vaccine, though a number of organizations are working to develop one.
Hand washing is recommended to prevent the spread of the disease. The CDC recommends that people wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the toilet or when hands are visibly dirty; before eating; and after blowing one's nose, coughing, or sneezing. It further recommended using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol by volume when soap and water are not readily available. However, in some other countries, like Lebanon, they recommended a hand wash for at least 30 seconds while avoiding using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The WHO advises people to avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
Health organizations recommended that people cover their mouth and nose with a bent elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing (the tissue should then be disposed of immediately). Surgical masks are recommended for those who may be infected, as wearing a mask can limit the volume and travel distance of expiratory droplets dispersed when talking, sneezing and coughing. The WHO has issued instructions on when and how to use masks.
Masks have also been recommended for use by those taking care of someone who may have the disease. WHO has recommended the wearing of masks by healthy people only if they are at high risk, such as those who are caring for a person with COVID-19, although masks may help people avoid touching their face.
China has specifically recommended the use of disposable medical masks by healthy members of the public. Hong Kong recommends wearing a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places. Thailand's health officials are encouraging people to make face masks at home out of cloth and wash them daily. The Czech Republic banned going out in public without wearing a mask or covering one's nose and mouth. Face masks have also been widely used by healthy people in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Social distancing (also known as physical distancing) includes infection control actions intended to slow the spread of disease by minimizing close contact between individuals. Methods include quarantines; travel restrictions; and the closing of schools, workplaces, stadiums, theatres, or shopping centres. Individuals may apply social distancing methods by staying at home, limiting travel, avoiding crowded areas, using no-contact greetings, and physically distancing themselves from others. Many governments are now mandating or recommending socical distancing in regions affected by the outbreak. Allowed gathering size was swiftly reducing from 250 people (if there was no known COVID-19 spread in a region) to 50 people, and later to 10 people. On 22 March 2020, Germany banned public gatherings of more than two people.
Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, hypertension, and compromised immune systems face increased risk of serious illness and complications and have been advised by the US CDC to stay home as much as possible in areas of community outbreak.
In late March 2020, the WHO and other health bodies began to replace the use of the term "social distancing" with "physical distancing", to clarify that the aim is to reduce physical contact while maintaining social connections, either virtually or at a distance. The use of the term "social distancing" had led to implications that people should engage in complete social isolation, rather than encouraging them to stay in contact with others via alternative means.
Self-isolation at home has been recommended for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and those who suspect they have been infected. Health agencies have issued detailed instructions for proper self-isolation.
Additionally, many governments have mandated or recommended self-quarantine for entire populations living in affected areas. The strongest self-quarantine instructions have been issued to those in high risk groups. Those who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and those who have recently travelled to a country with widespread transmission have been advised to self-quarantine for 14 days from the time of last possible exposure.
There are no specific antiviral medications approved for COVID-19, but development efforts are underway, including testing of existing medications. Attempts to relieve the symptoms may include taking regular (over-the-counter) cold medications, drinking fluids, and resting. Depending on the severity, oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids and breathing support may be required. The use of steroids may worsen outcomes. Several compounds, which were previously approved for treatment of other viral diseases, are being investigated.
Containment and mitigation
There are a number of strategies in the control of an outbreak: containment or suppression, and mitigation. Containment is undertaken in the early stages of the outbreak and aims to trace and isolate those infected as well as other measures of infection control and vaccinations to stop the disease from spreading to the rest of the population. When it is no longer possible to contain the spread of the disease, efforts then move to the mitigation stage, when measures are taken to slow the spread and mitigate its effects on the health care system and society. A combination of both containment and mitigation measures may be undertaken at the same time. Suppression requires more extreme measures so as to reverse the pandemic by reducing the basic reproduction number to less than 1.
Part of managing an infectious disease outbreak is trying to decrease the epidemic peak, known as flattening the epidemic curve. This decreases the risk of health services being overwhelmed and provides more time for vaccines and treatments to be developed. Non-pharmaceutical interventions that may manage the outbreak include personal preventive measures, such as hand hygiene, wearing face-masks and self-quarantine; community measures aimed at physical distancing such as closing schools and cancelling mass gathering events; community engagement to encourage acceptance and participation in such interventions; as well as environmental measures such surface cleaning.
More drastic actions aim at suppressing the outbreak were taken in China once the severity of the outbreak became apparent, such as quarantining entire cities affecting 60 million individuals in Hubei, and strict travel bans. Other countries adopted a variety of measures aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. For example, South Korea introduced mass screening, localized quarantines, and issuing alerts on the movements of affected individuals. Singapore provided financial support for those infected who quarantine themselves and imposed large fines for those who failed to do so. Taiwan increased face-mask production and penalized hoarding of medical supplies.
Simulations for Great Britain and the US show that mitigation (slowing but not stopping epidemic spread), as well as suppression (reversing epidemic growth), has major challenges. Optimal mitigation policies might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half, still resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems being overwhelmed. Suppression can be preferred but need to be maintained for as long as the virus is circulating in the human population [or until a vaccine becomes available, if that comes first], as transmission otherwise quickly rebounds when relaxed; while long-term intervention causes social and economic costs.
Health care capacity
Increasing capacity and adapting healthcare for the needs of COVID-19 patients is described by the World Health Organization as a fundamental outbreak response measure in face of the coronavirus disease pandemic. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European regional office of the WHO have issued guidelines for hospitals and primary healthcare services for shifting of resources at multiple levels, including focusing laboratory services towards COVID-19 testing, cancellation of elective procedures (whenever possible), separating and isolating COVID-19 positive patients, and increasing intensive care capabilities by training personnel and increasing the number of available respirators and beds.
There have been various theories as to where the first-ever case, or patient zero, may have originated. The first known case of the novel coronavirus was traced back to 1 December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. A later unconfirmed claim, citing Chinese government documents, suggests that the first victim was a 55-year-old man who fell ill on 17 November 2019. Within the next month, the number of coronavirus cases in Hubei gradually increased to a couple of hundred, before rapidly increasing in January 2020. On 31 December 2019, the virus had caused enough cases of unknown pneumonia to be reported to health authorities in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, to trigger an investigation. These were mostly linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which also sold live animals; thus the virus is thought to have a zoonotic origin.
During the early stages, the number of cases doubled approximately every seven and a half days. In early and mid-January 2020, the virus spread to other Chinese provinces, helped by the Chinese New Year migration, with Wuhan being a transport hub and major rail interchange, and infections quickly spread throughout the country. On 20 January, China reported nearly 140 new cases in one day, including two people in Beijing and one in Shenzhen. Later official data shows that 6,174 people had already developed symptoms by 20 January 2020.
On 10 January, based on reports from Chinese authorities, the WHO issued a travel advisory asking travellers to "be prudent to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections while travelling in or from affected areas (currently Wuhan City)". While noting that the mode of transmission of the virus was unclear, it advised "against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China". On 12 January, based on additional information from the Chinese National Health Commission, WHO stated that "at this stage, there is no infection among healthcare workers, and no clear evidence of human to human transmission." On 24 January, WHO updated its travel advisory by recommending entry and exit screenings while continuing to advise "against the application of any restrictions of international traffic".
On 30 January, the WHO declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On 24 February, WHO director Tedros Adhanom warned that the virus could become a global pandemic because of the increasing number of cases outside China.
On 11 March, the WHO officially declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic, following a period of sustained community-level transmission in multiple regions of the world. On 13 March, the WHO declared Europe to be the new centre of the pandemic after the rate of new European cases surpassed that of regions of the world apart from China. By 16 March 2020, the total number of cases reported around the world outside China had exceeded that of mainland China. On 19 March 2020, China reported no new domestic cases (excluding cases re-imported from abroad) for the first time since the outbreak, while the total number of reported deaths in Italy surpassed that of China.
As of 28 March 2020[update], more than 601,000 cases have been reported worldwide; more than 27,400 people have died and more than 133,000 have recovered, with the US having overtaken China and Italy to have the highest number of confirmed cases in the world. On 27 March 2020, Chinese scientists reported that as many as 10% of those who have recovered from COVID-19 and tested negative, tested positive again.
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.
The first confirmed case of coronavirus disease 2019 has been traced back to 1 December 2019 in Wuhan; one unconfirmed report suggests the earliest case was on 17 November. Doctor Zhang Jixian observed a pneumonia-cluster of unknown cause on 26 December, upon which her hospital informed Wuhan Jianghan CDC on 27 December. A public notice was released by Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on 31 December. WHO was informed on the same day. As these notifications occurred, doctors in Wuhan were simultaneously threatened by police for sharing information about the outbreak. The Chinese National Health Commission initially claimed that there was no "clear evidence" of human-to-human transmission.
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 took 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.
Early responses by Wuhan authorities were criticized as prioritizing control of information that might be unfavourable for local officials over public safety, and the Chinese government was criticized for cover-ups and downplaying the 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 blamed institutional censorship which left the citizens and senior officials with incomplete information on the outbreak and "contributed to a prolonged period of inaction that allowed the virus to spread". Experts have questioned the accuracy of the number of cases reported by the Chinese government, and the Chinese government has been accused of rejecting help from the US CDC and the WHO.
Later criticisms has targeted China's aggressive response aimed at controlling the outbreak, though some foreign leaders such as US President Donald Trump, and Russian president Vladimir Putin have praised them. Trump later reversed this, stating that he "wish[ed] they could have told us earlier about what was going on inside," and that China "was very secretive, and that's unfortunate". The director of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus congratulated the 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". Given the subsequent spread of the virus worldwide, it is difficult to know how successful this "agile" effort was.[neutrality is disputed] Damage to the global economy was felt in China as well: 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.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on 26 March 2020 a change to its entry policies for foreigners. The entry for visa or residence permit holders will be suspended from 28 March onwards.There were no specific details when this policy will end. Those wishing to enter China will have to apply for visas in Chinese embassies or consulates.
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.
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 a 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.
As of 18 March, more than 250 million people are in lockdown in Europe.
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 27 March 2020[update], there were 86,498 confirmed cases, 9,134 deaths and 10,950 recoveries in Italy, with the majority of those cases occurring in the Lombardy region.
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.
By 3 March, Madrid had become the major focus of the pandemic, with a major outbreak linked to evangelical churches in eastern Madrid. A state of alarm and national lockdown was imposed on 14 March 2020. The daily deathtoll surpassed 700 on 23 March with 738 people dying in a single day.
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.
On 27 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as Health Secretary Matt Hancock tested positive for COVID-19. They are in isolation but Johnson said he will continue to lead the government's response via video-conference. On the same day, the government's Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty announced that he was self-isolating after experiencing symptoms of the virus.
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 27 March 2020[update], there have been 32,964 confirmed cases, 1,995 deaths and at least 5,700 recoveries in France.
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 28 March 2020,[update] Germany has reported 49,039 cases, 350 deaths and 6,932 recoveries.
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.
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. Also, on 26 March, the United States was reported to have more confirmed coronavirus infection cases than any other country in the world, including China and Italy.
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.
An analysis of air travel patterns was used to map out and predict patterns of spread and was published in The Journal of Travel Medicine in mid-January 2020. Based on information from the International Air Transport Association (2018), Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Taipei had the largest volume of travellers from Wuhan. Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne were also reported as popular destinations for people travelling from Wuhan. Bali was reported as least able in terms of preparedness, while cities in Australia were considered most able.
Australia released its Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on 7 February. It states that much is yet to be discovered about COVID-19, and that Australia will emphasise border control and communication in its response to the pandemic. On 21 March 2020, a human biosecurity emergency was declared.
As a result of the outbreak, many countries and regions have imposed quarantines or entry bans for citizens or visitors of the most affected areas of the pandemic.
The European Union rejected the idea of suspending the Schengen free travel zone and introducing border controls with Italy, which has been criticized by some European politicians. After some EU member states announced complete closure of their national borders to foreign nationals, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that "Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization." The United States suspended travel from the Schengen Area and later the Common Travel Area.
Evacuation of foreign citizens
Owing to the effective quarantine of public transport in Wuhan and Hubei, several countries have planned to evacuate their citizens and diplomatic staff from the area, primarily through chartered flights of the home nation, with Chinese authorities providing clearance. Canada, the United States, Japan, India, France, Australia, Sri Lanka, Germany and Thailand were among the first to plan the evacuation of their citizens. Pakistan has said that it will not be evacuating any citizens from China. On 7 February, Brazil evacuated 34 Brazilians or family members in addition to four Poles, a Chinese person and an Indian citizen. The citizens of Poland, China and India deplaned in Poland, where the Brazilian plane made a stopover before following its route to Brazil. Brazilian citizens who went to Wuhan were quarantined at a military base near Brasília. On the same day, 215 Canadians (176 from the first plane, and 39 from a second plane chartered by the US government) were evacuated from Wuhan to CFB Trenton to be quarantined for two weeks.
On 11 February, another plane of 185 Canadians from Wuhan landed at CFB Trenton. Australian authorities evacuated 277 citizens on 3 and 4 February to the Christmas Island Detention Centre, which had been repurposed as a quarantine facility, where they remained for 14 days. A New Zealand evacuation flight arrived in Auckland on 5 February; its passengers (including some from Australia and the Pacific) were quarantined at a naval base in Whangaparoa, north of Auckland. The United States announced that it would evacuate Americans aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess. On 21 February, a plane carrying 129 Canadian passengers who had been evacuated from Diamond Princess landed in Trenton, Ontario. The Indian government has scheduled its air force to evacuate its citizens from Iran.
On 14 March a South African Airways aircraft chartered by the South African Government repatriated 114 South African citizens. Medical screening was performed prior to departure, four South Africans who were showing signs of coronavirus were left behind to mitigate risk. Only South Africans who tested negative were repatriated. Test results cleared all the South Africans, including the flight crew, pilots, hotel staff, police and soldiers involved in the humanitarian mission who, as a precautionary measure, all remained under observation and in quarantine for the 21 day period at The Ranch Resort.[excessive citations]
On 5 February, the Chinese foreign ministry stated that 21 countries (including Belarus, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Egypt and Iran) had sent aid to China. Some Chinese students at American universities joined together to help send aid to virus-stricken parts of China, with a joint group in the greater Chicago area reportedly managing to send 50,000 N95 masks to hospitals in the Hubei province on 30 January.
The humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief, in coordination with FedEx, sent 200,000 face masks along with other personal protective equipment, including gloves and gowns, by emergency airlift to the Wuhan Union Hospital by 30 January. On 5 February, Bill and Melinda Gates announced a US$100 million donation to the WHO to fund vaccine research and treatment efforts along with protecting "at-risk populations in Africa and South Asia".
Japan donated one million face masks to Wuhan. Other countries have also announced aid efforts. Turkey dispatched medical equipment, Russia sent more than 13 tonnes of medical supplies to Wuhan, Malaysia announced a donation of 18 million medical gloves to China, and Germany delivered various medical supplies including 10,000 Hazmat suits. On 19 February, the Singapore Red Cross announced that it would send $2.26 million worth of aid to China.
In March 2020, China, Cuba and Russia sent medical supplies and experts to help Italy deal with its coronavirus outbreak. Businessman Jack Ma sent 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million face masks and 60,000 protective suits to Addis Ababa for distribution by the African Union. He later sent 5,000 testing kits, 100,000 facemasks and 5 ventilators to Panama.
WHO response measures
The WHO has commended the efforts of Chinese authorities in managing and containing the epidemic. The WHO noted the contrast between the 2003 epidemic, where Chinese authorities were accused of secrecy that impeded prevention and containment efforts, and the current crisis where the central government "has provided regular updates to avoid panic ahead of Lunar New Year holidays".
On 23 January, in reaction to the central authorities' decision to implement a transportation ban in Wuhan, WHO representative Gauden Galea remarked that while it was "certainly not a recommendation the WHO has made", it was also "a very important indication of the commitment to contain the epidemic in the place where it is most concentrated" and called it "unprecedented in public health history".
On 30 January, following confirmation of human-to-human transmission outside China and the increase in the number of cases in other countries, the WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the sixth PHEIC since the measure was first invoked during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom said that the PHEIC was due to "the risk of global spread, especially to low- and middle-income countries without robust health systems. In response to the implementations of travel restrictions, Tedros stated that "there is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade" and that "WHO doesn't recommend limiting trade and movement."
On 5 February, the WHO appealed to the global community for a $675 million contribution to fund strategic preparedness in low-income countries, citing the urgency to support those countries which "do not have the systems in place to detect people who have contracted the virus, even if it were to emerge". Tedros further made statements declaring that "We are only as strong as our weakest link" and urged the international community to "invest today or pay more later".
On 11 February, the WHO in a press conference established COVID-19 as the name of the disease. On the same day, Tedros stated that UN Secretary-General António Guterres had agreed to provide the "power of the entire UN system in the response". A UN Crisis Management Team was activated as a result, allowing coordination of the entire United Nations response, which the WHO states will allow them to "focus on the health response while the other agencies can bring their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic and developmental implications of the outbreak".
On 14 February, a WHO-led Joint Mission Team with China was activated to provide international and WHO experts to touch ground in China to assist in the domestic management and evaluate "the severity and the transmissibility of the disease" by hosting workshops and meetings with key national-level institutions to conduct field visits to assess the "impact of response activities at provincial and county levels, including urban and rural settings".
On 25 February, the WHO declared that "the world should do more to prepare for a possible coronavirus pandemic," stating that while it was still too early to call it a pandemic, countries should nonetheless be "in a phase of preparedness". In response to a developing outbreak in Iran, the WHO sent a Joint Mission Team there on the same day to assess the situation.
On 28 February, WHO officials said that the coronavirus threat assessment at the global level would be raised from "high" to "very high", its highest level of alert and risk assessment. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, warned in a statement that "This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready," urging that the right response measures could help the world avoid "the worst of it". Ryan further stated that the current data did not warrant public health officials to declare a global pandemic, saying that such a declaration would mean "we're essentially accepting that every human on the planet will be exposed to that virus."
On 11 March, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak an official pandemic. The Director-General said that WHO was "deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction".
Ease of sanctions
With a rapid increase observed in the number of active COVID-19 cases, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, demanded economic sanctions to be eased for nations most affected by the pandemic. The ease is demanded to provide the countries a chance to counter the disease and limit its global impact. Iran is one of the nations named in the appeal, which has over 27,000 COVID-19 cases, with more than 2,000 deaths.
A number of provincial-level administrators of the Communist Party of China (CPC) were dismissed over their handling of the quarantine efforts in Central China, a sign of discontent with the political establishment's response to the outbreak in those regions. Some experts believe this is likely in a move to protect Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping from people's anger over the coronavirus outbreak.
In early March, the Italian government criticized the European Union's lack of solidarity with coronavirus-affected Italy. On 22 March 2020, after a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Russian president Vladimir Putin arranged the Russian army to send military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy.
The Iranian government has been heavily affected by the virus. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani wrote a public letter to world leaders asking for help on 14 March 2020, saying that his country doesn't have access to international markets due to the United States sanctions against Iran.
The outbreak has prompted calls for the United States to adopt social policies common in other wealthy countries, including universal health care, universal child care, paid family leave, and higher levels of funding for public health. Political analysts anticipated it may negatively affect Donald Trump's chances of re-election in the 2020 presidential election.
Diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea worsened due to the pandemic. South Korea criticized Japan's "ambiguous and passive quarantine efforts", after Japan announced anybody coming from South Korea will be placed in two weeks' quarantine at government-designated sites.
As of 20 March, more than 960 million children and other students were affected by temporary or indefinite government-mandated school closures. Of these, 105 countries shut schools nationwide, affecting students who would normally attend pre-primary to upper-secondary classes, and 15 countries implemented localized closures, affecting an additional 640 million school children and other students.
On 23 March 2020, Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) released a statement announcing the cancellation of Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma and Cambridge Pre-U examinations for the May/June 2020 series across all countries. International Baccalaureate exams have also been cancelled.
Even when school closures were temporary, the measures carried high social and economic costs, affecting people across communities, but their impact was more severe for disadvantaged children and their families, causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems and consequent economic cost to families who could not work.
In response to school closures, UNESCO recommended the use of distance learning programs, open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
The coronavirus outbreak has been attributed to several instances of supply shortages, stemming from: globally increased usage of equipment to fight the outbreaks, panic buying and disruption to factory and logistic operations. The United States Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings about shortages to drugs and medical equipment due to increased consumer demand and supplier disruption. Several localities, also witnessed panic buying that led to shelves being cleared of grocery essentials such as food, toilet paper and bottled water, inducing supply shortages. The technology industry in particular has been warning about delays to shipments of electronic goods. According to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom, the demand for personal protection equipment has risen 100-fold and this demand has led to the increase in prices of up to twenty times the normal price and also induced delays on the supply of medical items for four to six months. This has also caused a shortage of personal protective equipment worldwide, with the WHO warning that this will endanger health workers.
As mainland China is a major economy and a manufacturing hub, the viral outbreak has been seen to pose a major destabilizing threat to the global economy. Agathe Demarais of the Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast that markets will remain volatile until a clearer image emerges on potential outcomes. In January 2020, some analysts estimated that the economic fallout of the epidemic on global growth could surpass that of the SARS outbreak. One estimate from an expert at Washington University in St. Louis gave a $300+ billion impact on the world's supply chain that could last up to two years. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries reportedly "scrambled" after a steep decline in oil prices due to lower demand from China. Global stock markets fell on 24 February due to a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China. On 27 February, due to mounting worries about the coronavirus outbreak, various US stock indexes including the NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, posted their sharpest falls since 2008, with the Dow falling 1,191 points, the largest one-day drop since the financial crisis of 2007–08. All three indexes ended the week down more than 10%. On 28 February, Scope Ratings GmbH affirmed China's sovereign credit rating, but maintained a Negative Outlook. Stocks plunged again based on coronavirus fears, the largest fall being on 16 March 2020. Many consider an economic recession to be likely.
Tourism is one of the worst affected sectors due to travel bans, closing of public places including travel attractions, and advise of governments against any travel all over the world. As a consequence, numerous airlines have cancelled flights due to lower demand, including British Airways, China Eastern and Qantas, while British regional airline Flybe collapsed. Several train stations and ferry ports have also been closed. The epidemic coincided with the Chunyun, a major travel season associated with the Chinese New Year holiday. A number of events involving large crowds were cancelled by national and regional governments, including annual New Year festivals, with private companies also independently closing their shops and tourist attractions such as Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland. Many Lunar New Year events and tourist attractions have been closed to prevent mass gatherings, including the Forbidden City in Beijing and traditional temple fairs. In 24 of China's 31 provinces, municipalities and regions, authorities extended the New Year's holiday to 10 February, instructing most workplaces not to re-open until that date. These regions represented 80% of the country's GDP and 90% of exports. Hong Kong raised its infectious disease response level to the highest and declared an emergency, closing schools until March and cancelling its New Year celebrations.
Retail sector has been impacted globally, with store hours reductions or temporary closures. This resulted in 30% drop in daily footfall by 18 March, with additional restrictions, such as closure of all 150+ shopping centres nationally by Simon Property Group, by mall operators around the world.
Despite the high prevalence of COVID-19 cases in Northern Italy and the Wuhan region, and the ensuing high demand for food products, both areas have been spared from acute food shortages. Effective measures by China and Italy against the hoarding and illicit trade of critical products have been carried out with success, avoiding acute food shortages that were anticipated in Europe as well as in North America. Northern Italy with its significant agricultural production has not seen a large reduction, but prices may increase according to industry representatives. Empty food shelves were only encountered temporarily, even in Wuhan city, while Chinese government officials released pork reserves to assure sufficient nourishment of the population. Similar laws exist in Italy, that require food producers to keep reserves for such emergencies.
Environment and climate
Due to the coronavirus outbreak's impact on travel and industry, many regions experienced a drop in air pollution. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air reported that methods to contain the spread of coronavirus, such as quarantines and travel bans, resulted in a 25% reduction of carbon emission in China. In the first month of lockdowns, China produced approximately 200 million fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide than the same period in 2019, due to the reduction in air traffic, oil refining, and coal consumption. One expert estimated that this reduction may have saved at least 77,000 lives. Between 1 January and 11 March 2020, the European Space Agency observed a marked decline in nitrous oxide emissions from cars, power plants and factories in the Po Valley region in northern Italy, coinciding with lockdowns in the region. In Venice, the water in the canals cleared up and experienced an increased presence of fish and waterfowl; the Venice mayor's office clarified that the increase in water clarity was due to the settling of sediment that is disturbed by boat traffic and mentioned the decrease in air pollution along the waterways.
Despite a temporary decline in global carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency warned that the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak may prevent or delay companies from investing in green energy. However, extended quarantine periods have boosted adoption of remote work policies. As a consequence of the unprecedented use of disposable face masks, significant numbers are entering the natural environment, adding to the worldwide burden of plastic waste.
The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) announced that a worldwide reduction in aircraft flights due to the pandemic could impact the accuracy of weather forecasts, citing commercial airlines' use of Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) as an integral contribution to weather forecast accuracy. The ECMWF predicted that AMDAR coverage would decrease by 65% or more due to the drop in commercial flights.
Another recent and rapidly accelerating fallout of the disease is the cancellation of religious services, major events in sports, the film industry, and other social events, such as music festivals and concerts, technology conferences, fashion shows and sports.
The Vatican announced that Holy Week observances in Rome, which occur during the last week of the Christian penitential season of Lent, have been cancelled. Many dioceses have recommended older Christians to stay at home rather than attending Mass on Sundays; some churches have made church services available via radio, online livestreaming or television while others are offering drive-in worship. With the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rome closing its churches and chapels and St. Peter's Square is emptied of Christian pilgrims, other religious bodies also cancelled services and limiting public gatherings in churches, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras. Iran's Health Ministry announced the cancellation of Friday prayers in areas affected by the outbreak and shrines were later closed, while Saudi Arabia banned the entry of foreign pilgrims as well as its residents to the holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
The pandemic has caused the most significant disruption to the worldwide sporting calendar since the Second World War. Most major sporting events have been either cancelled or postponed, including the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League, 2019–20 Premier League, UEFA Euro 2020, 2019–20 NBA season, and 2019–20 NHL season. The outbreak disrupted plans for the 2020 Summer Olympics (originally scheduled to start at the end of July); the International Olympic Committee announced on 24 March that the event will be "rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021".
Casinos and other gaming venues worldwide have closed and live poker tournaments have been either postponed or cancelled. This has led many gamblers to move online, with many online gambling sites reporting doubling of their rate of new sign-ups.
The entertainment industry has also been affected, with various music groups suspending or cancelling concert tours. Many large theatres such as those on Broadway also suspended all performances. Some artists have explored ways to continue to produce and share work over the internet as an alternative to traditional live performance, such as live streaming concerts or creating web-based "festivals" for artists to perform, distribute and publicize their work.
Potential long-term impacts
The political, cultural, and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic may together cause major changes in human society. Commentators have suggested this could include an increase in remote work, localization of global supply chains, and increased political polarization.
Xenophobia and racism
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, heightened prejudice, xenophobia and racism have been noted toward people of European, Chinese and other East Asian descent, as incidents of fear, suspicion and hostility have been observed in many countries, particularly in Europe, East Asia, North America and the Asia-Pacific region. Some countries in Africa have seen rising anti-Chinese sentiment. Many residents of Wuhan and Hubei have reported discrimination based on their regional origin. There has been support for the Chinese, both on and offline, and towards those in virus-stricken areas. Following the progression of the outbreak to new hot-spot countries, people from Italy, the early epicentre of Europe's coronavirus pandemic, could also be subjected to suspicion and xenophobia.
Citizens in countries including Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea, initially signed petitions lobbying to ban Chinese people from entering their countries in an effort to stop the disease. In Japan, the hashtag #ChineseDontComeToJapan trended on Twitter. Chinese people in the United Kingdom claimed increasing levels of racist abuse, with cases of assaults reported. In the United States widespread incidents of xenophobia and racism were reported against Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans. U.S. president Donald Trump has faced criticism for referring to the coronavirus as the "Chinese Virus", a term considered by detractors to be Sinophobic. In response, Trump tweeted: "It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world." Protesters in Ukraine attacked buses carrying Ukrainian and foreign evacuees from Wuhan to Novi Sanzhary. Students from Northeast India, which shares a border with China, who study in major Indian cities have reportedly experienced harassment related to the coronavirus outbreak. The Bharatiya Janata Party's State unit president in West Bengal Dilip Ghosh stated that the Chinese had destroyed nature and "that's why the God took revenge against them." The remarks were later condemned by the Chinese consulate in Kolkata, calling it "erroneous".
Islamists have exploited the disease to foster anti-Western sentiment. In Hong Kong, anti-Western sentiment has risen as expats are accused of introducing a 'second wave' of the disease. Anti-Caucasian sentiment has also risen in Thailand, where Westerners are accused of spreading the disease.
There were rumours in India that some Muslims who returned from Dubai refused to undergo coronavirus testing for religious reasons. The news was then amplified by bloggers and some social media channels, but it was later debunked and confirmed to be false. Local authorities in Bolivia quarantined Japanese nationals despite them having no coronavirus-related symptoms. In the Russian cities of Moscow and Yekaterinburg, Chinese nationals were targeted by quarantine enforcing campaigns, as well as police raids, which were condemned by human rights advocates as racial profiling. The Chinese Embassy in Germany has acknowledged a rise in hostile cases against its citizens since the outbreak. Children of Asian descent were ostracized and mocked over their origins in middle schools near Paris. Many French-Vietnamese report also being subject to harassment since the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
As the pandemic has progressed, there have also been isolated instances of prejudice against Westerners, particularly Western tourists accused of importing the disease. Most notably, a post to the Twitter account of the Thai Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, urged Thais to be "more careful of Westerners than Asians". It claimed many Western tourists refused to wear masks and "dressed dirtily and never shower". The post attracted negative feedback in Thailand and the UK and was quickly removed. Mr. Charnvirakulk claimed he was not responsible for it.
On 30 January, the WHO's Emergency Committee issued a statement advising all countries to be mindful of the "principles of Article 3 of the IHR (the International Health Regulations)", which the WHO says is a caution against "actions that promote stigma or discrimination" when conducting national response measures to the outbreak.
Many newspapers with paywalls have lowered them for some or all of their coronavirus coverage. Many scientific publishers made scientific papers related to the outbreak available with open access. Some scientists chose to share their results quickly on preprint servers such as bioRxiv.
After the initial outbreak, conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online regarding the origin and scale of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Various social media posts claimed the virus was a bio-weapon, a population control scheme, or the result of a spy operation. Facebook, Google and Twitter announced that they would take stringent measures against possible misinformation. In a blog post, Facebook stated they would remove content flagged by leading global health organizations and local authorities that violates its content policy on misinformation leading to "physical harm".
On 2 February, the WHO declared there was a "massive infodemic" accompanying the outbreak and response, citing an overabundance of reported information, accurate and false, about the virus that "makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it". The WHO stated that the high demand for timely and trustworthy information has incentivized the creation of a direct WHO 24/7 myth-busting hotline where its communication and social media teams have been monitoring and responding to misinformation through its website and social media pages. The WHO has specifically debunked as false some claims that have circulated on social media, including that a person can tell if they have the virus or not simply by holding their breath; that drinking lots of water will protect against the virus; and that gargling salt water will prevent infection.
Taiwanese authorities accused the 50 Cent Party's internet trolls of spreading disinformation online to sow fear and panic among Taiwanese. Conspiracy theories about COVID-19 being the CIA's creation to keep China down spread across the Chinese internet. Possibly prompted by a press conference on 27 February where Zhong Nanshan, a prominent expert, said that "the coronavirus first appeared in China but may not have originated in China", individual officials have echoed Xinhua's claim that "The WHO has said many times that COVID-19 is a global phenomenon with its source still undetermined." Zhao Lijian, a spokesman from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tweeted in March 2020 that the disease may have been introduced by members of the American Army who visited Wuhan in October 2019. In a move which third party commentators consider state propaganda to deflect blame for poor handling of the epidemic, some officials, including a foreign ministry spokesman, as reported by the state news agency Xinhua, have protested at alleged "politicisation" of the outbreak by countries. Commentators also consider the state propaganda in China is promoting a narrative that China's authoritarian system is uniquely capable of curbing the coronavirus and contrasts that with the chaotic response of the Western democracies.
US President Donald Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and some members of the United States Congress have been accused of giving misinformation about the coronavirus. Some Indian politicians claimed that drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body can cure coronavirus. On 22 February, US officials said that they have discovered Russia-linked social media accounts deliberately promoting anti-American conspiracy theories, such as "waging economic war" on China, which was denied by Russia.
Iranian cleric Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi accused US President Donald Trump of targeting Qom with coronavirus to fulfill his previous promise of retaliation against Iranian cultural sites. Iran's Press TV asserted that "Zionist elements developed a deadlier strain of coronavirus against Iran", while Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the US created "a special version" of the virus that was affecting the country. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, numerous writers in the Arabic media have promoted the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was deliberately created and spread by the United States, as "part of an economic and psychological war waged by the US against China with the aim of weakening it and presenting it as a backward country and a source of diseases".
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