Timeline: COVID-19 outbreak became a ‘pandemic’ one year ago today

A timeline of events since the COVID-19 outbreak was classified as a pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) gave the COVID-19 outbreak a “pandemic” classification one year ago Thursday.

When the head of the WHO made that designation on March 11 2020, he said “pandemic” is not a word he uses lightly or “carelessly.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement at a time in history when there were 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 COVID-19 related deaths.

Speaking to the media on that day, Dr. Tedros said thousands more were in the hospital fighting for their lives.

“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Tedros.

The following is a timeline of events leading up to the pandemic and the year that has followed, both locally and globally.

31 Dec 2019

Pneumonia cases reported in Wuhan

A number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei Province were first declared to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, which would lead to the identification of a novel coronavirus.

5 January 2020

The WHO released the information to global media for the first time, reporting what China had told the organization about the status of patients and the public health response on the pneumonia cases in Wuhan.

7 January 2020

The outbreak was identified as a new coronavirus.

11 January 2020

First known death from COVID-19

The first known death from COVID-19 is reported by China. The patient was a 61-year-old man in Wuhan.

12 January 2020

China publicly shared the genetic sequence of COVID-19 for the first time.

20 January 2020

The first case of COVID-19 outside of China is confirmed in Thailand. A day later a positive COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States.

22 January 2020

A WHO mission to China issued a statement saying that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan. The next day China shutdown Wuhan, placing the city’s 11 million citizens under strict quarantine orders.

25 January 2020

Canada’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 is confirmed at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre after a man in his 50’s returned from Wuhan to Toronto with flu-like symptoms. His wife becomes the second presumptive case the following day. A Winnipeg lab would later confirm the positive COVID-19 case.

31 January 2020

The U.S. government blocks entry into the United States by any foreign nationals who had travelled to China in the past two weeks.

2 February 2020

The first COVID-19 death outside of China is reported in The Philippines.

7 February 2020

Reports surfaced about the death of Dr. Li Wenliang in Wuhan, who had warned about the coronavirus outbreak before it was officially announced.

A plane carrying more than 200 Canadians from Wuhan arrived at CFB Trenton, the passengers were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

11 February 2020

The WHO gives the novel coronavirus the name ‘COVID-19,’ an acronym that stands for coronavirus disease 2019.

23 February 2020

Italian officials in the Lombardy region lockdown towns and villages after a cluster of over 100 cases are confirmed.

24 February 2020

Global markets are rocked due to growing fears of economic instability. The Dow closes down 1,000 points.

6 March 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump signs an $8.3 billion emergency spending package.

8 March 2020

Health officials report the first death from COVID-19 in Canada. The elderly man died in a nursing home in North Vancouver.

11 March 2020

COVID-19 is officially characterized as a pandemic

One year ago today there were 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 COVID-19 related deaths.

Speaking to the media on that day, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said thousands more were in the hospital fighting for their lives.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly”

“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Tedros. “We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $1 billion COVID-19 response fund, with $500 million designated to go to provinces and territories.

In a rather eerie moment in time, the NBA suspended its 2019-20 season later that night, just moments before Utah and Oklahoma City tipped-off. That decision came after news broke that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

During media availability two days prior to that moment, Gobert mockingly rubbed his hands all over microphones and audio recorders that reporters were asked to place on a table 6 feet away from players.

12 March 2020

First local case of COVID-19

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) confirms Barrie’s first case of COVID-19.

A man in his 40’s, who had just returned from Spain and sought treatment at Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, tested positive for the virus.

Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s medical officer of health, said public health was working closely with the individual to follow up on known contacts who may have potentially been exposed to the virus as well as possible exposure sites.

15 March 2020

17 March 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declares a state-of-emergency to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19.

“This is a decision not made lightly. COVID-19 constitutes a danger of major proportions,” said Ford.

The order banned public events of over 50 people until March 31.

18 March 2020

Access to Canada was restricted beginning March 18, at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

“If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home. If you’ve just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days, and finally all Canadians as much as possible, should stay home,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

24 March 2020

Just a few MPs from each party met in the House of Commons to vote on an $82-billion emergency spending legislation, known as Bill C-13.

In a move many argued was “undemocratic, the initial bill granted the finance minister spending rights without Parliament’s approval. That was proposed to last until December 31, 2021, but was later revised to September 30, 2020.

26 March 2020

The United States reports the largest number of total COVID-19 cases, with 81,321 infections.

2 April 2020

Cases top one million

The coronavirus has now spread to over one million people in 171 countries and the reported death count topped 50 thousand people.

6 April 2020

Dr. Tam reverses advice on public mask-use

Canada’s chief public health officer recommends the public wear non-medical masks to limit community transmission.

It’s an about-face for Dr. Theresa Tam, who on March 28 had said “most people haven’t learned how to use masks” and “there is no need to use a mask for well people.”

7 April 2020

Prime Minister Trudeau brings up masks for the first time. “If people want to wear a mask, that is okay. It protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or… or… speaking, uh… ‘moistly’ on them,” said Trudeau during a daily news conference.

9 April 2020

The federal government announces that more than one million people lost their jobs in March.

22 April 2020

A “national disgrace”

The hardest-hit provinces of Ontario and Quebec call in the military to help inside long-term care homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks.

At the time, deaths among residents of Canada’s 2039 LTC homes accounted for about 80% of all COVID-19-related deaths.

28 April 2020

Over 50 thousand COVID-19 cases are reported in Canada.

8 May 2020

Canada’s unemployment rate hits 13 per cent, the second-highest it’s ever been.

23 May 2020

Jammed Toronto park sparks outrage

Images of a packed Trinity Bellwoods park in Toronto spark outrage over fears of another outbreak.

Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto

Premier Doug Ford said it looked like a rock concert without a band.

“My recommendation to anyone at Trinity Bellwoods, why don’t you do us all a favour and go get tested now,” said Ford.

27 May 2020

12 June 2020

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announces that the province, except for Toronto, Windsor-Essex and Peel region, will enter Stage 2 of the government’s reopening plan.

18 June 2020

Canada records a total of more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19.

18 July 2020

The federal government denies the Toronto Blue Jays from playing in Toronto.

Quebec makes mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public places.

21 July 2020

1 August 2020

16 August 2020

The CDC began to develop plans for distributing a coronavirus vaccine.

8 September 2020

Canadian classrooms reopen for the first time in months.

23 September 2020

Canada enters its 2nd wave

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the nation with news that Canada has now entered into a second wave of COVID-19.

28 September 2020

10 months after those pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, Covid-19 has now killed more than one million people.

30 September 2020

Bill C-4 is passed, bringing new COVID-19 benefits for Canadians.

2 October 2020

19 October 2020

Canada’s COVID-19 case count surpasses the 200,000 mark.

5 November 2020

8 November 2020

18 November 2020

26 November 2020

Federal health officials announce purchase agreements with COVID-19 vaccine producers. Prime Minister Trudeau says most Canadians should receive a COVID-19 vaccine by September 2021.

14 December 2020

People in Ontario and Quebec receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

26 December 2020

Ontario again locks down the economy, after confirmation of a variant of COVID-19.

3 January 2021

Canada surpasses 600,000 total cases of COVID-19.

8 January 2021

Outbreak declared at Barrie LTC home

An outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care home in Barrie is declared. All residents of the home contracted the virus; 71 died from it – 70 residents and one essential caregiver.

A new variant of COVID-19 that first surfaced in South Africa is reported in Alberta.

11 January 2021

The death toll in Ontario reaches 5,000.

14 January 2021

The Ontario government issues a stay-at-home order.

29 January 2021

Prime Minister Trudeau announced new national travel restrictions, including a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test and hotel quarantine upon entering Canada.

22 February 2021

New restrictions come into effect for all international travellers to quarantine in a hotel room for three nights while they await the results of a COVID-19 PCR test.

26 February 2021

AstraZeneca joins the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines on the list of those approved by Health Canada.

5 March 2021

Health Canada approves a ‘one-shot’ COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.