Although the origins of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19) remain under scientific investigation, on the 31st December 2019 China officially reported to the WHO an outbreak pneumonia cases in Wuhan with a common link to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On the 7th January 2020, China’s CDC disclosed that the cases were caused a novel coronavirus. By the 20th January, there were reports of cases in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
The first cases in Europe were reported in France on 24th January. Cases continued to be reported outside of Wuhan, frequently connected to persons who had recently travelled from China. The WHO declared the outbreak to be an emergency of ‘international concern’ on the 30th January and restrictions began to be introduced on travel to China.
Clusters of cases were reported in the Lombardia, Piedmonte and Veneto regions in northern Italy on 22nd February. These cases were the first major confirmations of community transmission of COVID19 in Europe, which had been typically connected to international travel up until then. Italy implemented social distancing measures on 8th March in affected regions which was extended to a national level on 11th March. This approach was soon followed by other affected European countries.
On the same day Italy implemented its lockdown, the WHO declared COVID19 a global pandemic.
As of 13th April 2020, there have been over 1.8 million confirmed cases, over 100,000 deaths and 213 countries and territories have reported cases. Globally, social distancing and lockdown measures have been implemented affecting a third of the global population and 2.7 billion workers, while international travel has been restricted to only essential purposes in most countries.
The dynamic and rapidly evolving situation continues to unfold, requiring an unprecedented level of international, multiagency cooperation to effectively combat a crisis without parallel in the 21st Century.
Key Lessons and Recommendations
- International cooperation, communication and transparency is critical to rapid response efforts against emerging pandemics
- Transboundary and multidisciplinary scientific exchange and collaboration is vital to address the many facets of COVID19 from healthcare to economics, security and ICT.
- Policymakers should rely on the best scientific evidence and expert advice available during pandemics at the pre-crisis, crisis and post-crisis stages to guide their decision-making.