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Wuhan Timeline: What Happened at the Coronavirus Epicenter

Updated on March 7, 2020
harrynielsen profile image

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

Wuhan Today

Today, Wuhan is a large, bustling modern city that sits on the banks of the Yangtze River.
Today, Wuhan is a large, bustling modern city that sits on the banks of the Yangtze River.

A 21st Century Modern Place

Until the first score of respiratory deaths occurred in this Central Chinese city, Wuhan was relatively unknown to the outside world. However, current events know no international boundaries and so in the beginning of 2020, Wuhan became a household name, as a place where a deadly virus began and now threatens to infect the whole world.

The Seafood and Wildlife Market

Live food markets are very popular in China, including this one in Wuhan
Live food markets are very popular in China, including this one in Wuhan

The Old and the New in Wuhan

Urban China is a land of contrasts; and nowhere is this more evident than in Wuhan, China's great domestic trade center. As the world's interest has centered on this thriving Chinese metropolis, even more attention has been directed towards the Seafood and Wildlife market, where all kinds of exotic animals are sold live, only to be consumed soon afterwards.

From this thriving center of commerce, the invisible coronavirus is believed to have emerged, destroying lives not only in China, but all across the planet. To many, not dwelling in the great Mandarin empire, this market portrays a way of life that is both colorful and archaic. But China also has a contemporary face and attitude. And during the recent medical crisis, the country had to rely heavily on its industrious nature, to essentially lock down several megacities and curtail a dangerous epidemic. It is a story the world will not soon forget and it began on Dec1, when the first coronavirus infection was discovered like a pebble dropped in a placid pond.

Pneumonia of an Unknown Cause

At first, the new coronavirus disease was referredto as Pneumonia of an Unknown Cause.
At first, the new coronavirus disease was referredto as Pneumonia of an Unknown Cause.

The Timeline: December 2019

December 1: Doctors diagnose a patient with a respiratory that strangely resembles SARS. Numerous other infections follow and very soon doctors are aware that they have a new type of respiratory infection on their hands.

Mid-December- Infections continue to grow in the city of Wuhan.As the cases come in, doctors become aware that the new disease is very similar to SARS, a respiratory ailment that infected several thousand people in 2002 and 2003. The doctors are also aware that the likely epicenter for the disease in the Wuhan Seafood and Wildlife market, where live animals are sold to be made into culinary delights.

Late December - The infection begins to grow and doctors respond to stop the growing epidemic. One eye doctor, a Dr Li Wenliang, makes the comment "SARS is back". And then starts sharing information online with other doctors. Another doctor puts out the warning "Don't go to the Wuhan market."

December 31 - After a group doctors shared online information about the new virus, China is forced to notify the World Health Organization about the outbreak.

Wuhan Reality

Residents of Wuhan in line to buy masks during the coronavirus outbreak.
Residents of Wuhan in line to buy masks during the coronavirus outbreak. | Source

Timeline January

January begins with authorities shutting down online chat groups and forbidding doctors to discuss the growing health crisis publicly.

January 1 - The Wuhan Seafood and Animal Market is closed down. Also, the Chinese rounds up and arrests eight doctors, including Dr. Li. They are charged with spreading rumors, forced to sign a statement and then released.

January 9 - First death is recorded at Wuhan general hospital from the new pneumonia, but the death is not announced until two days later, as authorities do not want the general public to know there is a public health problem in the Hubei province and Wuhan in particular. Also, WHO announces that the genetic sequence of the virus has been identified by the Chinese.

January 15 - The second death from the coronavirus occurs in China.

January 22 - All sales of live animals are banned in the city of Wuhan.

January 23 - Just as the Chinese Lunar New Year begins, China announces a total lockdown in Wuhan. This is the first realization that the central government recognizes the severity of the disease outbreak.

January 24-30 - The Chinese New Year is a week long holiday that begins on New Year's Eve and lasts at least a week. It is time when Chinese people travel many miles to be with their extended families. In the 21st century this translates into much international travel, to and from China. The government extends the holiday to prevent unnecessary travel in China.

January 25 - China begins a construction of two 1,000 bed hospitals designed to treat Wuhan pneumonia, another name for the coronavirus sickness. One of the hospitals is completed in ten days. The other takes two weeks.

January 30 - Death toll in China reaches 170 with most of the cases centered in Hubei province. Almost 8,000 infections recorded worldwide. All but a hundred are from China

January 31 - The World Health Organization declares the coronavirus outbreak in China a world health crisis.

Empty Stores

During the height of the coronavirus epidemic, Wuhan residents had to also deal with empty store shelves.
During the height of the coronavirus epidemic, Wuhan residents had to also deal with empty store shelves. | Source


Early February - As the health crisis mounts, Chinese authorities undertake the challenging task of rounding up those sick with this new virus and placing them in forced, mass quarantine, sometimes against their own wishes.

February 6 - Death toll in China passes 600 and the number of infected reaches 30,000.

February 7- Dr Li Wenliang, known as the whistleblower on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan dies from the disease at age 34. His death sparks a large round of grief and anger at the government.

February 14 - Death toll approaches 1,400, including six health workers. China reports 5,000 new cases bringing the total number of infected to 64,000.

February 21 - On a worldwide basis there are 2,200 deaths and 75,000 infected. Most are in China, but the disease is starting to spread globally. Wuhan sees 631 new cases. The government of China imposes "wartime" powers on the population of Wuhan, as government officials go door to door looking for diseased citizens.

February 29 - China reports 35 new deaths (all but one are in Hubei province where Wuhan is located) and 570 new cases. Worldwide the death count is nearly 3,000 with 85,000 being infected. A vast majority of these are in and around Wuhan. The first death is reported in Australia and also the USA.


The month of March sees the number of cases and deaths inside China decline, as the disease has gone global. There are now more cases recorded daily outside of China than within. South Korea, Iran and Italy are particularly hard hit by the new virus.

Building a Hospital in 10 days

Containment in Wuhan

Despite the severity of the original outbreak, Wuhan has seen a big turn around in the number of new coronavirus cases, as has the rest of China. As of early March, recorded new infections were way down from their peak only a couple of weeks before. Deaths were also down.

As China tries to return to normal, they face an entirely different problem. Instead of being the source of infection that spread across the globe, the Chinese people now have to be concerned about persons coming down with the contravirus outside of China and bringing the disease back to the places, where everyone has worked so hard to rid themselves of this pesky petulance.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Harry Nielsen


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