Timeline of ECDC’s reponse to COVID-19


Event background

On 31 December 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, reported a cluster of pneumonia cases (including seven severe cases) of unknown aetiology, with a common reported link to Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a wholesale fish and live animal market [1].

On 1 January 2020, the market was closed down. According to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, samples from the market tested positive for a novel coronavirus. Cases showed symptoms such as fever, dry cough and dyspnoea; radiological findings showed bilateral lung infiltrates [2].

On 9 January 2020, China’s CDC reported that a novel coronavirus (later named SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19) had been detected as the causative agent for 15 of the 59 cases of pneumonia [3]. 

On 9 January 2020, ECDC published a Threat Assessment Brief on the cluster of pneumonia possibly associated with a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China [4].

On 10 January 2020, the first novel coronavirus genome sequence was made publicly available [5]. The sequence was deposited in the GenBank database (accession number MN908947) and uploaded to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).

On 17 January 2020, ECDC published its first risk assessment on the novel coronavirus [6].

By 20 January 2020, there were reports of confirmed cases from three countries outside China: Thailand, Japan and South Korea [7]. These cases had all been exported from China.

On 23 January 2020, Wuhan City was locked down – with all travel in and out of Wuhan prohibited – and movement inside the city was restricted [8].

On 24 January 2020, the first European case was reported in France. This case had a travel history to China [9]. On 28 January 2020, Germany, also reported cases, related to a person visiting from China [10].

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this first outbreak of novel coronavirus a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ [11]. On 22 February 2020, and over the following days, the Italian authorities reported clusters of cases in several regions (Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto etc). During the following week, several European countries reported cases of COVID-19 in travellers from the affected areas in Italy, as well as cases without epidemiological links to Italy, China or other countries with ongoing transmission [12]. 

On 8 March 2020, Italy issued a decree to install strict public health measures including social distancing, starting in the most affected regions and on 11 March 2020 extending these measures at national level. Following this, Spain, France and many other European countries installed similar public health measures [13].

On 11 March 2020, the Director General of the WHO declared COVID-19 a ‘global pandemic’ [14].

As of 25 March 2020, all EU/EEA countries and more than 150 countries worldwide had been affected.

On 3 April 2020, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported worldwide surpassed one million.

On 8 April 2020, ECDC provided its expert opinion on the use of face masks in public by individuals who are not ill to reduce potential pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19. This opinion was translated into 26 languages [15].

On 14 April 2020, the European Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council, put forward a European roadmap towards lifting coronavirus containment measures [16].

During the course of April 2020, many EU/EEA countries started to adjust their response measures (i.e., the gradual opening of schools, small shops and other businesses) [17].

On 23 April 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the EU/EAA and the United Kingdom (UK) surpassed one million.

On 27 April 2020, health authorities in the UK warned of a number of seriously ill children with multisystem inflammatory syndrome associated with COVID-19, presenting with signs of circulatory shock and hyperinflammatory state, with features consistent with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease [18].

On 13 May 2020, the European Commission presented guidelines and recommendations to help Member States gradually lift travel restrictions, with all the necessary safety and precautionary means in place [19].

On 21 May 2020, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and ECDC jointly published guidance for the management of airline passengers in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic [20].

On 17 June 2020, the European Commission presented a European strategy to accelerate the development, manufacture and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19 [21]. 

On 29 June 2020, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide surpassed 10 million.

On 9 July 2020, the WHO’s Director-General announced the initiation of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPR) to evaluate the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic [22].

On 27 July 2020, the European Maritime Safety Agency…



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