Those 100 days that changed the world


More than 70,000 dead, 4 billion people confined, a planetary fear: the three months since the first suspicions of the appearance in China of a new coronavirus have plunged the world into a scenario worthy of a disaster movie.

From President Macron hammering on television "We are at war! "to Queen Elizabeth II, solemnly addressing her people in the spirit of the Blitz, or to the American authorities talking about a new "Pearl Harbor", memories of the darkest hours in history have resurfaced with the entry into this new kind of "war", where it is the caretakers who are sent to the front.

The virus, described as an "enemy of humanity" by the World Health Organization (WHO), has already contaminated nearly 1.3 million people, a figure that is certainly underestimated due to the lack of testing. The repercussions of the pandemic are immense and thousands of billions of dollars have been promised by governments to compensate for the expected deep recession. A look back at the ongoing history of these one hundred days that changed the world.



1 January 2020

Wuhan Seafood Market. Men in protective suits carefully take samples and place them in sealed plastic bags. Disturbing messages are circulating on Chinese social media, fuelled by medical documents warning that patients are showing up in Wuhan hospitals with worrying symptoms.

Eight people accused of spreading "rumours" about the disease are summoned to the Public Security Bureau. A Wuhan ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, is reprimanded for showing a group of his medical school alumni an analysis of the virus he believed to be Sras.

Phrases such as "unknown Wuhan pneumonia" and "Wuhan seafood market" are already censored on YY, a popular live broadcast platform.



January 2, 2020

The Taiwanese authorities are looking at Wuhan with concern. The island is already implementing health precautions: passengers on direct flights from Wuhan are screened for flu symptoms on the Taipei tarmac before they can disembark. Over the next two days, Singapore and Hong Kong will monitor the city's arrivals at their borders.



January 9, 2020

The mysterious disease is identified: Chinese scientists claim that Wuhan patients have contracted an as yet undiscovered coronavirus.

Last night, a 61-year-old man died in a hospital in Wuhan, the first known victim.

At this stage, the number of official cases is declining. Sequencing of the virus has allowed doctors to write off patients who were thought to be infected but who actually had only ordinary pneumonia. No new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the last four days.



January 13, 2020

Thailand reports its first case, a 61-year-old Wuhan resident whose high temperature was detected by a thermal surveillance scanner at Bangkok airport.

A committee of infectious disease experts, known as Nervtag, is meeting in London to discuss the virus and believes that the risk to the United Kingdom is "very low, but warrants investigation and testing.

The Chinese government says that there is no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission, including signs of illness among health professionals.

This official message is taken up by the WHO, which issues a press release in which it says it is reassured by the quality of the Chinese government's response.

According to epidemiologists, the news is encouraging. "If there are no new cases in the next few days, the epidemic is over," Guan Yi, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong, told the New York Times.



20 January 2020

After appearing to disappear in China for more than 15 days, the virus is now appearing throughout the country. On Friday night, there were four new cases. Sunday, 139. By the end of tomorrow, cases will have been confirmed in Beijing and Shanghai.

It is spreading around the world: Japan, South Korea and the United States, where yesterday a 35-year-old man returning from Wuhan presented at a clinic in Seattle, Washington with a cough and high fever, becoming the first case in the country.

Donald Trump received his first in-depth briefing on the virus two days ago.

Panic is growing in Wuhan. At 6 o'clock in the morning, more than 100 patients with coronavirus symptoms were waiting to be seen at Xiehe hospital.



January 24, 2020

On the eve of the Lunar New Year holiday, as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel to visit friends and family, Wuhan has effectively been cordoned off. Most transportation in and out of the city has been suspended. More than 800 infections have been detected and 25 people have died.

The virus is coming to France. The first three patients are announced: two in Paris and one in Bordeaux. These three Chinese patients had stayed in Wuhan. The trio had dozens of contacts and the French authorities say they are rushing to find possible cases. "We must treat an epidemic as we treat a fire," says Health Minister Agnès Buzyn.

Mr Trump received his first media question about the virus during his visit to Davos two days ago. When asked if he was concerned about a possible pandemic, he replied: "Not at all. And we've got it perfectly under control.



January 25, 2020

China's containment is expanded to 56 million people. President Xi Jinping warns that the country faces a "serious situation". And Liang Wudong, a doctor at Xinhua Hospital in Hubei, will be the first health professional to die.



January 31, 2020

The epidemic has reached the United Kingdom. Spain and Italy detect their first cases.

"The situation is serious but there is no cause for alarm, everything is under control," says Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

No one has died outside China, but in China the number of deaths is accelerating, currently at 258, with more than 11,000 people infected.

The United States announced that it is banning foreigners who have recently visited China from entering the country.



February 2, 2020

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February 4, 2020

In China, the official number of cases exceeds 20,000, with 425 deaths. A resident of Wuhan who contracted severe pneumonia last week died in a hospital in Manila, Philippines, the first person to succumb to the virus outside China. The Philippines is banning all new arrivals from China.

According to the Director General of the WHO, the international spread of the disease seems to be " slow and minimal« The situation could get worse, however, and there is no need for unnecessary disruptions to trade and travel.

Former directors of a White House pandemic preparedness office, dissolved by Trump in 2018, issue a post of opinion in the Wall Street Journal. "Stop a coronavirus epidemic in the United States before it starts," the headline reads.



February 9, 2020

Eleven cases have been reported in France, including five British nationals staying in Les Contamines-Montjoie (Haute-Savoie), that have been contaminated by a superinfector......hospitalized in the area.



February 11, 2020

Professor Gabriel Leung, Chairman of the University of Hong Kong Medical School, tells the Guardian : "If China's containment doesn't work, we'll have to face the truth: the coronavirus may be impossible to contain.... Considering that each person infected with the virus will transmit it to an average of 2.5 other people, 60 % of the world's population could be affected if the epidemic is not controlled".



February 15, 2020

In France, the first death outside Asia, and therefore the first in Europe; a Chinese tourist, octogenarian, hospitalized at the Bichat-Claude-Bernard hospital (Paris)



February 16, 2020

The MS liner Westerdam is banned from landing by several countries that fear that passengers may be infected with the coronavirus. Cambodia finally agrees to let the passengers disembark on its territory and then return to their 20 or so countries of origin. However, Malaysia announced on 16 February that one of the passengers tested positive for the coronavirus, and fears that other passengers disembarking could also be infected.



February 17, 2020

4-day Gospel gathering of 2,500 people from all over France in Mulhouse, Alsace.This is the starting point of the major outbreak of contagion in the Haut-Rhin and the border departments.



February 19, 2020

In Milan, Atalanta continued their fairytale run in the Champions League, defeating Spanish club Valencia 4-1, with the stadium rising with every goal.

"About a third of the population of the small town of Bergamo was present at the San Siro stadium," according to a match report. Thousands of Spaniards also made the trip, in crowded buses, to the capital of the province of Lombardy to watch the match.

The death toll in China has passed the 2,000 mark.



February 21, 2020

In Italy, the first death of a European who had never been to China. Eighteen cities in Lombardy and one in the Veneto region of Italy forbid access to their public places.. Nineteen reported cases.



February 23, 2020

South Korea declares 169 case and now stands at 602 case.

Japan acknowledges that 23 passengers on the Diamond Princess have gotten out of hand.

Italy announces the death of a third patient and more than 100 newly infected people. With nearly 150 case Italy is the European country most affected by the epidemic..

In France, the Minister of Health announced the "activation" of 70 hospitals in order to have at least one per department in metropolitan France. 70 Samu headquarters thus became associated with the 38 mobilized university hospitals.



February 25, 2020

In Spain, while the first cases have so far been limited to the island regions of the Canary Islands and the island of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands, a first contamination has been confirmed on the Iberian Peninsula itself in Barcelona in Catalonia. The patient had travelled a few days earlier to northern Italy..

Two new cases detected in France when there were no more patients hospitalized the evening before.

Italy recorded its eleventh death, while three new regions are infected by the epidemic (Tuscany, Liguria and Sicily) despite containment measures taken in the north of the country.

As the United States announced its 14th case, Trump tweeted during a state visit to India: "The coronavirus is very well under control in the United States. The stock market is starting to look very good to me".



February 26, 2020

Worldwide cases have exceeded 80,000. For the first time since the epidemic was first reported, more cases were confirmed outside China than inside the country.

READ IN UP' : Fearproof world



March 3, 2020

At a press conference, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson raised his eyebrows when he said he continued to shake hands. "I was at the hospital the other night where I think there were some coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody," he said.



March 6, 2020

The number of deaths in Italy increased sixfold in six days: more than 230 Italians died and the number of cases is increasing by more than 1,200 a day. Rome has closed schools, banned spectators from watching Series A football matches and is preparing to put Lombardy under its protection.

"The health care system risks being overburdened and we will have a problem with intensive care if an exponential crisis continues," says Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

A 70-year-old woman becomes the first person to die from the virus in Britain, and Downing Street says the virus is now likely to spread "significantly".



March 11, 2020

In a rare speech in the Oval Office, Dr. Trump announced that his administration is embarking on "the most aggressive and comprehensive effort in modern history to combat a foreign virus.

The number of cases in the United States has risen to 1,000 and more than 116,000 people are infected worldwide.

Stock markets in the United States and the United Kingdom are collapsing faster than at any time since the financial crash of 2008, gripped by panic over the virus and a Saudi-Russian war over oil prices.

In Italy, the number of deaths increased by 168 in a single day, the highest figure ever recorded. The image of an exhausted Italian nurse, collapsed on her desk, goes viral. The country is facing its "darkest hour," says Conte.

The WHO declares what has become clear: Covid-19 is a pandemic.

Britain has 456 cases but is resisting the kind of mass arrests that have been implemented elsewhere in Europe. Sick and vulnerable people are advised to stay at home, but the government is leaning towards the idea that the cost of removing the virus altogether will be too high in terms of loss of liberties. Allowing it to spread could also "strengthen a kind of herd immunity so that more people are immune to the disease," Sir Patrick Vallance, England's chief scientific adviser, later told the BBC.



March 12, 2020

The 1,000 dead mark is passed in Italy. The country reinforces its quarantine measures by closing all its shops, cafés and restaurants with the exception of food shops and pharmacies.

the United States announces that it will ban from its territory travellers who have visited the Schengen area within the previous 14 days.



March 13, 2020

WHO states that from now on "Europe is at the epicentre of the pandemic".

Any gathering of more than 100 people is forbidden in France.

In the United States, Donald Trump declares a state of national emergency in view of the coronavirus health situation..

Russia announces restrictions on flights to and from the European Union.



March 16, 2020

The United States is accused of having wanted to buy a future vaccine (if discovered) exclusively from a German company Curevac.



March 17, 2020

The nations of Europe are closing themselves off from each other, and the continent is closing itself off from the world. "We are at war," President Emmanuel Macron said in a solemn television address. The confinement of the population is decreed.

Deaths in Italy now exceed 450 per day and will soon outnumber those in China. Confirmed cases in Spain will double to more than 17,000 by the end of the week. Three-quarters of those who have died from the disease are European.

Every hour brings new things: more cases, more deaths and more traffic restrictions. Australians abroad are receiving an unprecedented demand to return home as quickly as possible. The French are banned from cycling. California's 40 million residents are asked not to leave their homes.

Downing Street decided to urgently revise its strategy, based on group immunity, fearing, according to modelling experts, that it would cost the lives of half a million Britons and lead to the collapse of the hospital service.

In Burkina Faso, a former vice-president of parliament dies of the virus, the first confirmed death of Covid-19 in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of the week, there will be 1,000 cases on the continent. More than 160,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide.



March 18, 2020

France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom, most European countries impose containment. 

The images of overcrowded hospitals and crowded corridors of sick people are followed by those of the world's big cities, deserted and silent.

Curfews and states of emergency are on the increase, raising concerns about respect for the rule of law.

More than a third of the world's airliner fleet is grounded. Closed schools and universities and telecommuting are now the norm.

On social networks, the hashtag #Jerestechezmoi is available in all languages.

A ritual develops among the confined people every evening: applauding the caregivers from their windows and balconies to express gratitude.

READ IN UP' : Optimistic at the time of the corona

In Madrid, an ice rink is transformed into a mortuary to store the bodies. In New York, a field hospital is set up in Central Park.

In the world's poorest and most overcrowded neighbourhoods, travel restrictions are proving extremely difficult to enforce. Some security forces in Africa go as far as whipping or shooting to disperse crowds. Millions of refugees are at risk, as in the Al-Hol camp in Syria, where 68,000 people are crammed into less than 2 km2.



March 23, 2020

Confirmed cases worldwide have exceeded 370,000.

Almost 400 people are dying in Spain, the highest number of deaths per day so far. It will prove to be the lowest for at least the next fortnight.

More than 5,000 new cases are confirmed in New York, bringing the state total to 20,000. By the end of this week, the United States will be the most infected country in the world.

The tide seems to be easing in China, which this week recorded its first day without any cases of domestic transmission, including in Hubei, the province where the disease first appeared.

Tomorrow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will urge his nation to "forget what it means to go out" for the next three weeks. The closure order will trigger one of the largest human migrations across the subcontinent since its partition in 1947.

This means that more than 3.5 billion people worldwide now live in some form of quarantine.



March 24, 2020

In most countries, masks and other protective equipment are sorely lacking and caregivers go to work with fear in their stomachs. In the face of this global shortage, governments are competing ruthlessly to buy them; theft and trafficking are on the increase.

There are fears of overcrowding in intensive care units, a lack of medication and a lack of nursing staff.

While most countries reserve screening tests for serious diseases, South Korea, Germany and Singapore have opted for large-scale testing and thus avoided extreme containment measures. This strategy is accompanied in South Korea by technological tracking that is difficult to replicate in more privacy-conscious countries.

Meanwhile, in Europe and the United States, the race for vaccines and treatments is being launched between the heavyweights of the pharmaceutical industry. Several countries are experimenting with a chloroquine derivative, an anti-malarial treatment with numerous side effects. Its use is the subject of debate due to the lack of studies conducted according to standard protocols.

READ IN UP' : The race for vaccines and treatments



April 2, 2020

The Johns Hopkins University confirms that the number of people infected with Covid-19 exceeded one million, with more than 50,000 deaths. Among the sick is Boris Johnson, who claims to have only minor symptoms and to still be able to lead the British government.

In Hungary, the Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, was given the power to govern by decree with no time limit.

In India, a second case was discovered in Dharavi, a large slum in Mumbai and one of the most densely populated places on earth, fuelling fears that the epidemic in the country is much worse than the 2,069 officially recorded cases.

In Spain, the number of deaths exceeded 950 in a single day, the highest ever recorded. Figures show that a record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, in addition to the more than 3 million who did so the previous week. There are nearly a quarter of a million cases and 6,000 deaths in the United States. Field hospitals have been set up in Central Park in New York and refrigerated trucks are being used to store the dead. Mr. Trump warned of the "very, very painful two weeks" ahead.



April 8, 2020

Boris Johnson, the English prime minister, who is suffering from coronavirus was admitted to intensive care on Monday after his symptoms worsened.

In some of the most affected European countries, the number of new transmissions and deaths is declining. China recorded its first day with zero deaths and is cautiously reopening its cities.

Last Saturday was perhaps the deadliest day so far, with more than 6,500 deaths worldwide. But as some of the poorest and most populous countries are still officially relatively unaffected by the virus, it is too early to be sure.

In total, more than 75,000 people died and 1.3 million were infected worldwide. About 270,000 of them have recovered.

Doctors do not yet have any treatment or vaccines against the disease. 

French production fell by 6% over one quarter and economists estimate that each month of containment costs at least 2 points of annual production. The extension of the containment could thus lead to a long and brutal recession, unprecedented since the war.

No country has managed to define a sustainable strategy on how to return to normal life.


With AFP, The Guardian

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