From outbreak to pandemic: The WHO's virus response

Here are key points of the WHO's timeline covering the first 100 days of the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE: World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference. Picture: AFP

GENEVA - The World Health Organisation (WHO), attacked by the United States for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has published a blow-by-blow account of its actions from the first cases in China at the end of December up until the declaration of a pandemic on 11 March.

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Here are key points of the WHO's timeline covering the first 100 days of the coronavirus outbreak.


On 31 December 2019, China reported to the WHO a "cluster" of pneumonia cases "of unknown cause" in Wuhan, in the province of Hubei.

Of a total of 44 cases, 11 patients were "severely ill", the others stable.

On 1 January, the WHO activated a crisis group, putting the body "on an emergency footing for dealing with the outbreak".

On 4 January, the WHO on social media reported a cluster of pneumonia cases "with no deaths", in Wuhan. A day later, it published its first "Disease Outbreak News" destined for scientists and public health specialists on the new virus.

On 10 January, the WHO sent "technical guidance" with advice to all countries on how to detect, test and manage potential cases. Evidence at the time suggested "no or limited human-to-human transmission", the WHO said.


On 11 January, China gave the WHO the genetic sequence of COVID-19.

On 13 January, Thailand reported the first imported case on its territory.

On 14 January, Maria von Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead at the WHO, told a press briefing that there "may have been limited human-to-human transmission", based on 41 confirmed cases, and that there was the risk of a wider outbreak.

On 20 and 21 January, WHO experts from China and the western Pacific region went on a brief field visit to Wuhan.

On 22 January, the WHO mission to China said there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan - among close contacts such as families or in health care settings - but that "more investigation is needed to understand the full extent of transmission".

On 22 and 23 January, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convened an emergency committee to assess whether the COVID-19 outbreak constituted a "public health emergency of international concern".

The committee, consisting of independent international experts, was unable to reach a consensus and asked to meet again 10 days later.

On 28 January, a WHO delegation travelled to Beijing, led by Tedros, who agreed with the Chinese government that an international team of scientists would be dispatched to China.


On 30 January, the WHO declared COVID-19 to be "a public health emergency of international concern".

Between 16 and 24 February, a scientific mission of experts from the US, China, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, and Canada travelled to Wuhan.

On 24 February, a team of experts from the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control travelled to Italy, which became the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak after China.

On 11 March, the WHO designated COVID-19 as a pandemic.

At that time, 90% of cases were declared in just four countries, according to the WHO, with 81 countries reporting no cases at all, and 57 countries reporting up to 10 cases.