COVID-19 timeline

COVID-19 has made it clear that public health is essential to economic recovery.
The notion that we must choose between them is ridiculous – and has had deadly consequences.

The timeline plots the history of COVID-19, from the first reported case to current events,
which are kept regularly updated.

It can be viewed chronologically, as things happened, or by most recent events first.
Here you can find more a detailed introduction and a guide to abbreviations.

This timeline will be updated approximately weekly throughout 2021.
Please check back for the latest developments.

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22 August 2021

22 August 2021

• Dr. Zhong Nanshan, China’s leading expert in respiratory diseases, says that he hopes China could reach herd immunity by the end of 2021 if 80 percent of its population are fully vaccinated, and that booster shots could strengthen protection. Source

• Wu Chung-I, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, described arguments about whether SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China  as “…a complete waste of time…We look like a bunch of school kids fighting in the playground. We’re not trying to solve anything.” He cited the Delta variant, noting that it is very unlikely that researchers could just tinker with the virus to add a few mutations and expect it to become highly efficient at infecting the human population, adding, “The virus has to go through a very long process to become extremely well-adapted to human conditions.”

Jonathan Stoye, a virologist from the Francis Crick Institute in Britain, says that questions about the virus’s possible escape from the Wuhan lab – and the gain of function research conducted there – remain, saying “Simply denying this possibility does not help resolve the question. A thorough lab audit conducted in the early stages of the investigation with a group experienced in such matters, and given the opportunity to examine all the lab records and hold discussions with all staff might well have solved this problem.” Source

21 August 2021
21 August 2021

21 August 2021

• Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Orlando, Florida – where cases of the Delta variant have surged – asks residents to limit their use of water because it has become necessary to boost the supply of liquid oxygen for COVID-19 patients. Source 

• Britain’s government is starting a SARS-CoV-2 antibody surveillance program which will send antibody test kits to people who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, using the information to assess reinfection rates, measure breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people – and study people who did not mount an immune response after vaccines. Source 

• After a flurry of recent calls to Mississippi’s poison control center from people seeking to prevent or treat COVID-19 with ivermectin, an anti-parasitical medicine often used in animals, the US FDA issued a warning, saying, “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” Source 

• In the US, more vaccinate mandates are expected as soon as Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine gains full FDA approval  – which is likely to happen within days. Source

20 August 2021

20 August 2021

• U.S. weekly infections surpass one million for the first time since last winter’s surge. Source

• The damage from Haiti’s recent earthquake includes the only medical oxygen plant in the southern part of the country, leaving just two factories in Port-au-Prince. Source 

• Israeli researchers publish a paper, which was used to support the rationale for boosting doses, noting waning immunity after full vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. After the country experienced a resurgent outbreak of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant, data were collected on all new infections that occurred among 4,785,245 fully vaccinated people during the period between 11 July and 31 July. They found that 12,927 became infected with SARS-CoV-2, and that 348 of them developed severe COVID-19, noting an increase in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, and a decrease in protection among people vaccinated in January versus March of 2021, concluding that protection among people ages 60 and above decreased to 73 percent among those vaccinated in the second half of March, versus 57 percent for those vaccinated at the beginning of the year. Similar decreases in protection over time were observed across age groups, although the vaccine provided high levels of protection among younger people. The researchers noted that the increased transmissibility of Delta versus Alpha variants was not considered, as they considered it beyond the scope of their work. Source

• New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, extends the nationwide lockdown by four days after an outbreak of the delta strain of coronavirus spread outside largest city Auckland. The Ministry of Health reported 11 new community infections, three in Wellington, bringing the total to 31. Source 

• The UK Secretary of Health, Sajid Javid. Said that coronavirus vaccine boosters will be rolled out in September, with the most vulnerable people at the top of the list. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation released interim advice in July, suggesting that over 30 million of the most vulnerable people – including people over age 50 – should receive a third dose. Source

• As hospital ICUs have reached or are nearing their capacity in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas, – mainly with unvaccinated patientsthe US seven-day average of COVID-19 deaths has reached 1,016, its highest point in since February. Source                   

• The Washington Post reports that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for adolescents has yet to be authorized by federal health officials.  They are investigating reports from Canada about a higher than previously known risk of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) associated with Moderna’s vaccine. It has occurred among young adults (usually males, under age 30) who received mRNA vaccines, although rarely and is usually mild. The Canadian data indicates that the incidence of myocarditis may be 2.5 times higher among those who got Moderna’s vaccine versus the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. So far, CDC and FDA safety monitoring have identified 762 confirmed cases of myocarditis or pericarditis (swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart), most after the second dose. Overall, 202 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 142 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in the US. Source

• The Philippines reported record-breaking daily totals of 17,23 new infections and 317 deaths. Source

• Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz announces that teachers and people ages 40 and over are now eligible for booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Source 

• New Zealand’s lockdown is extended as 31 people in several cities tested positive for the Delta variant. The country used genomic sequencing to reveal the outbreak’s source – a traveler from New South Wales who entered the country earlier in the month. Source

• In Australia, where 29 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, coronavirus cases hit an all-time daily high of 754. The Delta variant continue to spread in Sydney, where coronavirus cases have surpassed 10,000 and 65 people have died of COVID-19. The lockdown has been extended to 30 September.  Additional measures, such as mandatory outdoor masking and a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be imposed on 2 million people in 12 high-risk areas around Sydney, which are home to some of its poorest residents. Source 

• After coronavirus cases dramatically decreased in the US, Abbott Laboratories told staff – many from African countries – to destroy millions of rapid test kits for COVID-19 instead of donating them.  Then, Abbott laid off thousands of workers, cancelled contracts with their suppliers and closed one of the only two plants producing COVID-19 test kits. 

Now that the Delta variant has pushed daily cases over 100,000, Abbott’s actions have hindered efforts to expand screening with its 15-minute antigen test. As it tries to staff up, Abbott has told thousands of companies that it will be unable to equip corporate testing programs in the near future, while at-home test kits are selling out at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Source 

• AstraZeneca issues a press release with results from its 5,197-person phase III PROVENT trial of AZD7442 (a combination of two long-acting antibodies) for COVID-19 pre-exposure prophylaxis.  Trial participants were unvaccinated, and over 75 percent of them had co-existing conditions, including some that reduce immune responses to vaccines. At the time of primary analysis, 25 cases of COVID-19 occurred (although the press release did not specify how many were among people in the placebo arm vs. the AZD 7442 arm). AZD7442 reduced the risk for symptomatic COVID-19 by 77 percent. There were no cases of severe COVID-19 or COVID-19-related deaths among those who received AZD7442; there were three cases of severe COVID-19, including two deaths, among people who received placebo. Source

• Regulators in India grant emergency use authorization to a DNA-based, three-dose coronavirus vaccine developed by Cadila Healthcare, which was 67 percent effective for preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Cadila said the vaccine is effective against newer variants of the coronavirus, including Delta. The company plans to seek approval for a two-dose regimen and announced that it can produce 100- 200 million doses per year. Source

• Philadelphia’s Archdiocese announces that it will not sanction religious exemptions to coronavirus vaccine mandates, joining those in Honolulu, New York City and San Diego. Source

• Monderna mandates coronavirus vaccines for all US employees as of October 2021. Source

19 August 2021
19 August 2021

19 August 2021

• As high-income countries announce plans to administer third doses of coronavirus vaccines, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Africa criticized these decisions, saying they “…make a mockery of vaccine equity” when the African continent is still struggling to get vaccine supplies.” She added that allowing at-risk groups to go unvaccinated in all countries “ …will result in needless deaths. We say this every week, and it cannot be repeated enough.”

Officially, there have been 7.3 million cases in Africa, where only two percent of the continent’s residents have been vaccinated. In addition to surges of coronavirus, countries are facing other health threats:  Ivory Coast confirmed its first case of Ebola in nearly three decades Guinea reported the first-ever case of Marburg virus in West Africa, and Uganda is facing a polio outbreak. Source 

Nature releases a review of published and unpublished studies on how the Delta variant spreads, noting that people do not develop symptoms until 1.8 days after testing positive – which leaves almost two days for asymptomatic people to transmit the virus. Researchers estimate that 74 percent of Delta infections are transmitted during the pre-symptomatic phase, and its R0 ( a measurement of the number of susceptible people who can be infected by one person) is 6.4, much higher than that of the original version of the virus, which is 2–4. Source

• Less than two percent of Afghanistan’s residents have received coronavirus vaccines, and WHO warns that the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is hindering efforts to address the  coronavirus pandemic and other health crises there, such as polio. Source

• The Delta variant is driving a surge in cases that is overwhelming Cuba’s healthcare system, mortuaries and crematories. Source

• The US CDC has delayed a meeting of its Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, which was originally scheduled to meet – and possibly make a recommendation about coronavirus vaccine boosters – from 24 August to 30 August. Source 

• The US has asked the United Nations to make the annual General Assembly meeting in New York next month mostly virtual to avoid “superspreader” risks from the highly contagious Delta variant. Source

18 August 2021

18 August 2021

• Public health experts from the US Department of Health and Human Services issue a statement supporting the need for booster shots, due to waning immunity, the rise of the more transmissible Delta variant, and concerns that protection against severe COVID-19, hospitalization and death could diminish in the coming months – especially for people vaccinated at the beginning of 2021. The statement included information on a plan to start offering boosters in Q3 2021 for people vaccinated eight months ago, included healthcare providers, nursing home residents and other senior citizens. Source

• A pre-print study is released on vaccine effectiveness against new SARS-CoV-2 infections in the UK, based on data from the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey, which used on results from pre-scheduled PCR testing. Researchers looked at 384,543 PCR results during the Alpha-dominant period (1 December to 16 May) and 358,983 PCR results during the Delta-dominant period (17 May to 1 August). They found that vaccine efficacy was high during the Alpha-dominant period, but when Delta became dominant, the AstraZeneca vaccine was significantly less effective than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – although effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine waned rapidly, becoming similar to AstraZeneca’s after 4-5 months. Peak viral loads among fully vaccinated people infected with the  Delta variant  were similar to those among unvaccinated people, leading the authors to note that this “…further argues for vaccinating as many of the population as possible, since those not vaccinated may not be protected by as substantial reductions in transmission among the immunized population as seen other infections, making herd immunity likely unachievable for emerging variants and requiring efforts to protect individuals themselves.” Source

• The US CDC publishes a report on the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines among nursing home residents before and during circulation of the Delta variant. During the pre-Delta era (1 March to 9 May), an analysis of 17,407 weekly reports from 3,862 facilities found that full vaccination was 74.4 percent effective. From 10 May – 20 June, an analysis of 33,160 weekly reports from 11,581 facilities found that vaccine effectiveness dropped to 67.5 percent. From 21 June to 1 August, an analysis using 85,593 weekly reports from 14,917 facilities found that effectiveness dropped to 53.1percent. Of the 6.879 cases of COVID-19 reported from 1 March until 1 August, 2,113 (30.7 percent) occurred among unvaccinated nursing home residents; the remaining cases were among those fully vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech (37.8 percent, or 2,603) or Moderna (18.9 percent, or 1,302) and the remaining 12 percent were among residents with “other” vaccination status. Overall, vaccine efficacy was similar. The authors noted that they could not differentiate between the effects of waning immunity and the Delta variant, particularly because widespread circulation of the Delta variant occurred at six months after vaccine introduction. The authors noted the need for multiprong prevention strategies for nursing home residents (infection control, testing and vaccination of staff members, residents and visitors, and suggested that an additional dose of vaccine could be considered for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Source 

• The US CDC publishes a report on the sustained effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna against hospitalization for COVID-19 from March to July of 2021, based on data from 3.089 people. For 2-12 weeks after vaccination, mRNA vaccines were 86 percent effective at preventing hospitalization from COVID-19, and 84 percent effective at 12-24 weeks (although their effectiveness at preventing hospitalization dropped to 63 percent among people with immunocompromising conditions). The authors noted that vaccination should be offered to all eligible people. Source

• WHO reports that fake versions of Covishield – the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by India’s Serum Institute – have been seized in Africa and India. Source 

• Pope Francis has joined religious leaders from Muslim, African American and Orthodox Jewish communities to urge coronavirus vaccination in a video, saying that is “an “an act of love.” Source

• As the Delta variant continues to surge across Japan, the government extended the state of emergency covering Tokyo and five other areas from 31 August to to 12 September and expanded it to include seven more prefectures. Restaurants and bars are asked to shut, and those that do not serve alcohol are asked to close at 8 p.m. under the threat of possible fines. But large portions of the public have become unwilling to stay home, and many bars and restaurants are not complying, because they fear that they will be unable to reopen. In response, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that the government will prepare additional subsidies of 300 billion yen ($2.7 billion) to help struggling businesses. Source

• In Israel, where 78 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, the Delta variant is causing a surge of COVID-19 cases, including among early vaccine recipients – elderly people, who may have weakened immune systems. In June, the country removed preventive measures including indoor masking; the government has been slow to respond to rising cases in June and July and is now hoping that booster shots will curb the spread of the virus. Source         

17 August 2021
17 August 2021

17 August 2021

• Coronavirus cases in the US surpass 37 million. Source 

• After France imposed the requirement for a coronavirus health pass to enter restaurants and other venues, the police are investigating 46 cases involving false certificates. A contractor at a vaccination center was caught selling 200 false certificates; two employees at a vaccination center in Bordeaux face forgery charges for selling false certificates, and hackers have gotten into doctor’s computer systems to create false passes. The punishment for using a forged pass is up to three years in prison and a 45,000 euro ($53,000) fine. Source

• The New York Times reports that Delta may be causing more breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people than previously thought, based on preliminary data from seven states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Virginia). In six of these states, breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people made up one in five new cases. The percentage of hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated people, although quite low, were higher than anticipated among vaccinated people, which is partially explained by a larger proportion of vaccinated people. In six states, breakthrough infections made up 18 to 24 percent of new cases. Overall, 12 percent to 24 percent of COVID hospitalizations occurred among fully vaccinated people, who were likely to be over age 65 or immunocompromised; the number of deaths among vaccinated people remains small (although higher than the CDC’s estimate of 0.5 percent). Source

16 August 2021

16 August 2021

• The New York Times reports that millions of J & J’s coronavirus vaccines bottled and packaged in South Africa were being exported to the EU. South Africa has only received two million of the 31 million doses it ordered from J & J – the main reason why only seven percent of the country’s residents have been vaccinated.  Dr. Glenda Gray, who co-led the Sisonke trial of J & J’s vaccine in South Africa, described the situation as “…like a country is making food for the world, and sees its food being shipped off to high-resource settings while its citizens starve.” 

The doses were exported instead of being used in South African because J & J forced the country to waive its right to restrict vaccine exports. Popo Maja, a spokesman for South Africa’s Ministry of Health said, “The government was not given any choice. Sign contract, or no vaccine.” In addition, the contract included provisions that shield J & J from lawsuits by a wide range of parties, including the government, and J & J imposed an unusually high burden on potential litigants, so that they must show that any injuries caused by the vaccine were the direct result of company representatives engaging in deliberate misconduct or failing to follow manufacturing best practices. J & J, which has exported over 32 million doses from South Africa, is charging the country $10 per dose – as much as in the US, and more than in the EU, where doses are $8.50 each. 

Dr. Paul Stoffels, J & J’s Chief Scientific Officer, said “We have done our best to prioritize South Africa as much as we can,” adding that that South Africa’s Aspen plant would exclusively supply doses to African countries later this year. Source

• Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his entire cabinet resign on Monday amid anger about the government’s mishandling of the pandemic. Source 

• The US FDA has rejected an emergency use application for Rigel’s fostamatinib (approved for treating thrombocytopenia), saying the 59-person phase II trial was too small. A larger phase III trial in people hospitalized with mild-to-severe complications of COVID-19 is underway.  Fostamatinib is also being studied in ACTHIV-4, an NIH- sponsored trial assessing whether people with COVID-19 who receive it are more likely not to need oxygen. Source         

• Seattle’s HDT Bio has announced a collaboration with Korean biotech Quratis; the companies will work together to develop an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine for Asia. HTD is expected to announce similar deals in China and Brazil, and is already working with India’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, where a phase I/II trial was launched in May.  HDT’s technology differs from existing mRNA vaccines because it uses a new type of nanoparticle which is designed to direct the RNA to a specific subset of immune cells. It also uses self-amplifying RNA ( virus-derived strands that multiply once in the body),  which might be given at lower doses and may enhance immune stimulation more than existing mRNA vaccines. Source         

• As Kenya battles a fourth wave of coronavirus, a Kenyan alliance of national and local organizations, including Amnesty International and Transparency International, described police violence and coronavirus as a “twin pandemic.” Since the nationwide curfew began at the end of March 2020, at least 26 deaths have been associated with enforcement of COVID-19 measures. Police have also beaten and teargassed people waiting for a ferry in Mombasa and forced people stuck in traffic – some trying to reach hospitals – to sleep in their cars to avoid violating curfew. Recently, the deaths of two brothers, Benson Njiru Ndwiga, 22, and Emmanuel Marura Ndwiga, 19, who were detained for being outdoors after curfew, from head and rib injuries, have increased calls for accountabilityFred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Interior Minister, said that the government would “stop at nothing to ensure justice is served.” Source 

• Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen announces that she will be getting vaccinated with a locally produced, protein subunit-based coronavirus vaccine from Medigen. The country’s regulators rejected an emergency use application for another locally-produced candidate from UBI Pharma, which is developing a multitope protein/synthetic peptide; in phase II, the vaccine did not trigger immune responses comparable to those elicited by AstraZeneca’s vaccine. UBI is planning phase III trials in India. Source

• Pfizer and BioNTech issue a press release to announce that they have submitted early data to the US FDA supporting an application for formal (rather than emergency use approval) for a third booster dose. The companies plan to submit additional data from a larger trial to the EMA and other regulatory authorities in the coming weeks. Source

• The Biden administration is planning to send 488,370 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to Rwanda through COVAX as part of a pledge made at the G7 summit to donate 500 million doses. The US plans to ship 200 million doses by the end of 2021, and the remaining 300 million by June of 2022. Source

• Moderna issues a press release to announce a revised supply agreement with the Canadian Government for up to 105 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine and candidate booster vaccine (if authorized) The agreement covers 20 million doses in 2022 and 2023, with an option for an additional 15 million doses. For 2024, the agreement provides an option for up to 35 million doses. Source

• The ACT Accelerator announces that it is urgently seeking funding to help countries stop the Delta variant, calling for $ 7.7 billion for medicines, testing, oxygen and protective gear for frontline health workers. Source

15 August 2021
15 August 2021

15 August 2021

• As the Delta variant spreads into more remote Outback areas in Australia, it presents a threat to the country’s Indigenous people. There are high rates of diabetes and heart disease in these rural areas.

Nationwide, only 14 percent of First Nations people are fully vaccinated – and only 8 percent of First Nations people in western parts of the state, in contrast to 20- 24 percent of the general population.  A case was detected in the Northern Territory, where 30 percent of the 250,000 residents are Indigenous. In western New South Wales – hundreds of miles from Sydney – 35 new infections were detected; 16 of them were among Indigenous people in the city of Dubbo. Source

• Australia has purchased one million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at a no-profit price from Poland, which has fully vaccinated over a third of its 38 million residents. Source   

• In South Africa, the seven-day average of coronavirus infections rose for a fourth consecutive day, reaching 10,319. KwaZulu-Natal is the worst affected of the country’s nine provinces, accounting for 28 percent of the  country’s cases. Source

• Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni, announces plans for importing coronavirus vaccine reagents, which will enable the country to start making its own vaccines. Source

• In the US, the number of people under age 50 hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit a record high. Source

JAMA publishes a study on pediatric transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among 6,280 households, which found that younger children (ages 0-3 years) may be more likely than older children (ages 14- 17 years) to spread the virus to caregivers and siblings. The authors noted that caregivers should remain vigilant, when feasible, about infection control measures such as masking, handwashing and keeping sick children apart from siblings. Source

14 August 2021

14 August 2021

• In the US, record numbers of children, people ages18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 re hospitalized with COVID-19. Source

• Israel administered 70,000 booster shots this weekend as people between 50 and 59 became eligible. The country has given nearly 846,000 booster shots, and an additional 100,000 people have signed up for them. Source 

• COVAX delivers 1.77 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to Cairo. Source

13 August 2021
13 August 2021

13 August 2021

Bloomberg reports that herd immunity against SARS-CoV-2 may not be possible, due to the rise of new variants such as Delta. The duration of natural immunity is uncertain – and it is not clear whether it will protect people against future variants. The Infectious Diseases Society of America has estimated that Delta has pushed the threshold for herd immunity to over 80 percent – and the world is far from achieving that level of vaccination, especially in low- and middle-income countries. William Hanage, an epidemiologist and expert in communicable disease dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said that discussing herd immunity “… presents people with an unrealistic vision of how the pandemic comes to a close and doesn’t account for the evolution of either the virus or the nature of disease in reinfections.” Source 

• The New York Times reports that the Delta variant has overwhelmed Iran. The official daily death toll is 500 to 600, although front-line doctors say it is closer to 1,000 people each day; lack of access to testing and care also make it likely that daily cases are far higher than the 40,000 that have been reported. The situation we are facing is beyond disastrous,” said Dr. Mahdiar Saeedian, a 39-year-old physician in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city. “The health care system is on the verge of collapse.”  Essential medical supplies, including intravenous fluids, oxygen tanks and antiviral medications are in short supply at hospitals and pharmacies; they are available in the black market at exorbitant prices. Doctors have posted videos on social media begging officials to act immediately to lock down the country and buy more foreign-made vaccines, while nurses are shown crying on state television.

The government – which has not imposed restrictions on super-spreading events – has also refused to purchase or accept donations of vaccines made in the UK and US, while Dr. Alireza Zali,  head of Tehran’s coronavirus committee, said officials had not allowed the purchase of foreign vaccines because of the expense. Source 

• Moderna issues a press release to announce that the US FDA has updated the emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine to include a third dose for immunocompromised individuals ( solid organ transplant recipients and people with other conditions with equivalent level of immunocompromise) ages 18 and over. Source                                     

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