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- On 31 December 2019, WHO was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, China. A novel coronavirus was identified as the cause by Chinese authorities on 7 January 2020 and was temporarily named “2019-nCoV”.
- Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The new virus was subsequently named the “COVID-19 virus”.
- On 30 January 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), WHO’s highest level of alarm. At that time there were 98 cases and no deaths in 18 countries outside China.
- On 11 March 2020, the rapid increase in the number of cases outside China led the WHO Director-General to announce that the outbreak could be characterized as a pandemic. By then more than 118 000 cases had been reported in 114 countries, and 4291 deaths had been recorded.
- By mid-March 2020, the WHO European Region had become the epicentre of the epidemic, reporting over 40% of globally confirmed cases. As of 28 April 2020, 63% of global mortality from the virus was from the Region.
- Since the first cases were reported, WHO has worked around the clock to support countries to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the words of Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, “Through transparent knowledge-sharing, tailored support on the ground, and steadfast solidarity, we will beat COVID-19.”