The Making of a pandemicThe


of a


The initial days in Wuhan will remain a mystery until scientific research can pinpoint when, where, and how did the novel coronavirus move from one species to another. But till then, we can rely on events that took place at the epicentre in Wuhan. We have assembled the key moments, arranged them chronologically, and added visual cues to create an immersive timeline.



has allowed very little information to pass through, leaving the entire world, guessing what went on in China just moments before the

pandemic. Despite the intense scrutiny of both media networks and governments around the world, it is still not clearly understood just how the disease spread so silently and so quickly. Citizen journalists and traditional media have posited a myriad of theories and heart-breaking narratives. It has kept nearly 8 billion people on edge, causing unprecedented human and economic loss. As the world readies itself to accept a new normal (of living with a contagion), we all stand at a pivotal juncture, and it is essential for us to look at how we got here. What transpired in the last week of December 2019 and days leading up to the lockdown in Wuhan? We have collected and organised critical pieces of information after sifting through various media reports, research papers, and data visualisations. Please scroll down to have a look, and to avoid errors, we recommend you switch off any ad-blockers.


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A look at the data reveals that the earliest case could be traced back to November 17, 2019. Subsequently, there were nine more cases in November, but none confirmed as patient zero. According to the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), the first confirmed case was on December 8 and an article in the medical journal - Lancet points to December 1 2019, as the 'symptom onset date of the first patient.'




On December 10, a local shrimp seller, Ms. Wei Guixian, at the Huanan seafood market, started to feel sick. She consulted a few local clinics and doctors, but her situation did not improve. A week later, she went into the emergency room of Xiehe Hospital, barely able to move. Subsequently, research shows (February 20, 2020) that about 1 to 5 locals, like the 55-year-old Ms Wei, were reporting to hospitals with symptoms that had an uncanny similarity with hers. By December 20, the figure was rising in double digits daily, and the count officially had reached close to 60. 



On December 27, Dr Zhang Jixian, the head of the respiratory department at the Hubei Provincial Hospital, raised the alarm about patients with a mystery flu. Then she had no clue about how devastating that would turn out to be. She recounts those early days in this interview.

Zhang Jixian,who sounded the alarm #warning of a #virus outbreak. Watch the video to know her story.
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Photo: Xinhua/Shen Bohan




Dr. Ai Fen, at the emergency department at Wuhan Central hospital, received a lab result that would leave her stunned. It mentioned the words "SARS Coronavirus." She circled the words, took a picture, and sent it to former medical school classmates. The photo spread like wildfire in the medical peer groups, and as the Guardian reported, 'it became the first piece of evidence of the outbreak.'


One of the doctors, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist shared the info on a group called 'Wuhan University Clinical o4'. The panel on the left shows how the chat went, which has been expunged by the authorities in China. But in a hyper-connected world, there is always a digital imprint that can be traced back.


An internal circular was released by the Wuhan Health Commission: 'There has been a continuous occurrence of pneumonia cases of unknown cause at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.' The circular asked all medical staff to report cases of this mysterious Pneumonia.



The Wuhan Health Commission informs the W.H.O. local office that cases of Pneumonia of unknown aetiology (unknown cause) have been detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei Province of China confirming 27 cases. The local Centre for disease control and prevention asks people not to go to enclosed public places or gather. It suggested wearing face masks when going out.