new coronavirus
Passengers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at Los Angeles International Airport, California, on Jan. 29, 2020. A new virus that has killed more than one hundred people, infected thousands and has already reached the US could mutate and spread, China warned, as authorities urged people to steer clear of Wuhan, the city at the heart of the outbreak.
Mark Ralston/AFP

How the 2019 nCoV caused worldwide panic: A timeline

Franco Luna ( - February 4, 2020 - 4:24pm

MANILA, Philippines — In the Philippines, the number of persons under investigation for possible novel coronavirus or 2019 nCoV ARD in the span of just one day jumped significantly from 36 people to more than double this figure at 80 people as of Monday.

READ: The Philippines scored '0' in 5 indicators on the Global Health Security index. Here's why

Originally thought to be a pneumonia outbreak, 2019 nCoV has since been elevated to global health emergency status by the World Health Organization.

Of this, acting WHO Philippine Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said, "Nobody suspected that this outbreak of pneumonia could cause deaths."

Since then, the country has cycled through a travel ban, repatriation efforts and mass panic-buying. 

READ: How effective is a travel ban in containing the novel coronavirus?

Here is a chronological timeline of events as they happened, according to the Department of Health and WHO. 

December 30, 2019: A cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown origin are reported in Wuhan to China National Health Commission

January 1, 2020: The Huanan seafood wholesale market in Wuhan is closed. Despite being mainly a seafood market. There were "many exotic food among other things for sale at this market," Abeyasinghe said. 

January 7, 2020Novel coronavirus isolated

January  11, 2020The first fatal case of novel coronavirus is reported

January 12, 2020Whole genome sequence shared with WHO and public virus designated 2019-nCoV, giving authorities the ability to test for the presence of the virus 

January 13, 2020: First case reported in Thailand, but from a traveler who came from Wuhan

January 16, 2020: Japan confirms its first case of novel coronavirus

January 19, 2020The first case is reported in the Republic of Korea, with two more confirmed cases in Beijing and one in Guandong

January 20, 2020First reports of infection in health-care workers caring for patients with 2019-nCoV

January 21, 2020: The Department of Health issues its public first health advisories on the virus. The United States Center for Disease Control confirms the first case in the US.

January 22, 2020: The following day, DOH issues guidelines for 2019-nCoV response through a department memorandum regarding the strengthening of hospital infection prevention measures. 

January 23, 2020: Chinese authorities lock down Wuhan completely as Philippine airports and seaports are put on tight watch

January 24, 2020835 cases reported in China (549 from Hubei province). Further cases reported from all but one province. A 5-year-old boy from Wuhan confined in Cebu tests negative for the virus. 

January 27, 2020: Health Secretary Francisco Duque III bares that the count for PUIs in the Philippines stands at 11.

January 28, 2020: The DOH launches a daily case tracker and dedicated web page to combat proliferating fake news and disinformation on the virus. Senators begin calling for a preemptive travel ban on all of mainland China and its special administrative regions. Germany confirms its first case. 

January 29, 2020: Both Duterte and Duque express they aren't keen on the idea of a travel ban, citing its potential effects on diplomatic ties with China. Finland confirms its first case. 

January 30, 2020The first case of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines is confirmed in a woman from Wuhan who came to the Philippines via Hong Kong, but also went to Cebu and Dumaguete. The virus is declared as a public health emergency of international concern by the WHO, "recognizing the diversity of healthcare capacity across member states." President Rodrigo Duterte orders a temporary travel ban, but only on visitors coming from the Hubei Province of China, where Wuhan is located. India confirms its first case. 

February 1, 2020: The first confirmed 2019 nCoV-linked death outside of China takes place in the Philippines. Health officials say it was a result of the patient's pneumonia. 

February 2, 2020: Duterte orders the temporary ban of all incoming travelers from the whole of China, Hong Kong and Macau, with the exception of Filipino citizens and those holding Philippine permanent resident visas.

February 3, 2020: Despite the two confirmed cases, the Health Department highlights that the two coming from Wuhan means "zero local transmission."

February 4, 2020: A Senate probe revealed that only 17% of the 331 airplane passengers who interacted with the two confirmed nCoV carriers have been contacted. Despite this, both the WHO and the DOH express optimism that the situation can still be controlled in the Philippines. There are 80 PUIs in the Philippines.

Below are the "directives" that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said at a Senate probe were forwarded by Duterte at the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases:

  • Temporary ban on any person besides Filipinos coming from Hubei and other places coming from Hubei Province and mainland China 
  • Temporary ban on anyone, including Filipinos, who has been to officially-confirmed affected areas within 14 days of coming to the Philippines
  • Establishment of a repatriation facility, "somewhere in the north" that is "still being studied and considered at this point"

"Everything is well in the country. There's nothing really to be extra scared of that coronavirus thing. Although it has affected a lot of countries, but you know, one or two in any country is not really that fearsome," Duterte told reporters after a meeting with top officials over the outbreak.

Below is a list of countries with confirmed cases as of January 31, according to the CDC.

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Macau
  • Taiwan
  • Australia
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Nepal
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Singapore
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Thailand
  • The Republic of Korea
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Vietnam

with reports from Patricia Lourdes Viray and Agence France-Presse 

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