COVID-19 Timeline

A timeline of COVID-19 and OT&P updates.

When managing epidemics of new infectious disease it is important to learn the lessons of the past, but also to recognise the specific variables and uncertainties of the present. Communicating risk in evolving epidemics involves recognising those uncertainties and being prepared to change advice on the basis of new and evolving evidence. Education, reliable information and effective communication are key factors in the management of epidemics of infectious disease.

As COVID-19 continues to spread in Hong Kong, and globally, information around this new disease evolves at a rapid pace. We have compiled a historical record of this evolving process for our patients. We have loaded all our previous communications such that they can be assessed in context.

Navigate through the months to see key disease milestones.

COVID-19 Timeline

December 2019
  • Li Wenliang[1], a 34-year-old ophthalmologist from Wuhan, posts a message on a WeChat group alerting fellow doctors to a new disease at his hospital in late December.
January 2020
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) issues an alert that 44 patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology have been reported by the national authorities in China. Of the 44 cases reported, 11 are severely ill while the remaining 33 patients are in stable condition[2].
  • The gene sequencing data of the new virus was posted on by researchers from Fudan University, Shanghai.
  • China reports three deaths and more than 200 infections. Cases are now also diagnosed outside Hubei province (Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen). Asian countries begin to introduce mandatory screenings at airports of all arrivals from high-risk areas of China.
  • The United States reported its first COVID-19 case.
  • A WHO China office field mission to Wuhan issued a statement saying that there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan, but more investigation was needed to understand the full extent of transmission.[3]

Hong Kong also recorded its first positive case, a 39-year-old man who arrived in Hong Kong from China.


OT&P produce their first newsletter.

The first blog: the distinction between the disease and the epidemic was published.

  • As health authorities in Hong Kong confirmed more cases, the Hong Kong government officially declared the viral outbreak as an "emergency".
  • In Germany, the first cluster of infections with person-to-person transmission from asymptomatic patients in Europe was reported. The source of infection was an individual from Shanghai visiting a company in Bavaria.
  • The Hong Kong government started implementing border control and reducing traffic from Mainland China. They also announced their first work at home recommendation on this day.[4]
  • WHO Director-General declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and advises “all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection”.
  • As a response of the evolving situation in Hong Kong, The Leisure and Cultural Services Department announces the closure of all public museums, public libraries and sport centres until further notice.[5]
  • The United States reported its first locally transmitted case in Chicago.
  • Hong Kong’s first case of local transmission is recorded.
  • The United States declares COVID-19 a public health emergency and imposes a mandatory 14-day quarantine to any U.S citizen that had visited Hubei Province in China. Additionally, all non-U.S. nationals that have travelled to China two weeks before their flight will be denied entry.[6]

OT&P published a blog explaining why the WHO has declared the global health emergency.

The first two COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the UK.[6]

February 2020
  • The first COVID-19 death was reported outside of China, a 44-year-old Wuhan resident who died in the Philippines.

First death recorded in Hong Kong from COVID-19. A 39-year old male who had travelled to Wuhan on the 21st of January with an underlying illness.


Communicating risk in an epidemic: A personal perspective written by Dr David Owens as a reflection of his previous experience of the epidemics of TB, HIV and SARS.

  • Hong Kong introduces prison sentences for anyone breaching quarantine rules.
  • The death toll in China rises to 800+, surpassing SARS related deaths.
  • Coronavirus is officially named COVID-19.
  • Onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan, 175 people are infected with the virus. Over the following days and weeks, almost 700 people will be infected onboard.

To assist parents in dealing with school closure, OT&P children’s behavioural therapist wrote an article on how to maintain structure at home during this period.

South Korea reports over 20 more cases on this day, marking the beginning of the outbreak cluster in Daegu, South Korea.[7]

  • A patient in his 30s tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in Codogno Hospital (Lodi, Lombardy, Italy). Over the next 24 hours, the number of reported cases would increase to 36, many without links to the Codogno patient or previously identified positive cases. A first COVID-19 death in a 78-year-old man was also reported. It is the beginning of the Italian epidemic.[8]

OT&P 4th newsletter

We emphasised a focus on two distinct but different concepts: the disease and the epidemic.


We asked the question ‘How do we get back to normal?

March 2020
  • Wuhan closed its first makeshift hospital, marking the beginning of the cluster in Wuhan coming under control.[9]

Hong Kong reaches the milestone of 100 confirmed cases.[10]

  • The United States reports an increasing number of cases, including Washington, California, Florida, Arizona, Indiana. New York City reports 44 confirmed cases on this date. This marks the beginning of the U.S's COVID-19 epidemic.[11]

WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.[12]

  • China introduces 14-day quarantine for any overseas arrival.[13]
  • The first human trials of a coronavirus vaccine begin in Seattle, United States.[14]
  • China reports no local transmission for the first day.

As more politicians made bleak predictions about COVID-19, we discussed the danger of predictions of mortality in evolving epidemics.


Hong Kong records 48 new infections, the biggest daily tally so far.[15]

  • Wuhan begins easing of its two-month-long lockdown and starts reopening the city to anyone that could provide a "green code of health". Non-residents were also allowed to apply to leave the city as travel resumes.[16]
  • The United Kingdom goes into lockdown.[17]

  • Hong Kong announces the closure of its border to all incoming non-residents arriving from overseas. Transiting through Hong Kong was also no longer allowed. In addition, all returning residents were subject to compulsory quarantine for 14 days. Returning residents from high-risk countries were required to go through enhanced screening procedures and submit a saliva sample for testing.[18]
  • The Hong Kong government announces further restrictions, banning any indoor or outdoor gathering of more than four people. Restaurants were also required to operate at half their capacity and to set their tables at least 1.5 metres apart.[19]
April 2020
  • The Hong Kong government also announced the temporary closure of all karaoke lounges, nightclubs, beauty parlours, massage parlours, clubhouses and mahjong premises.

Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 1 million.

  • As a result of the Lan Kwai Fong cluster, all pubs and bars were also ordered to close for 14 days.
  • For the first time since the outbreak began, China reported its first day with no COVID-19 deaths.

We published a COVID-19 Q&A.


OT&P announce a study with the University of Hong Kong. The study will provide evidence of the effectiveness of the community-wide interventions that Hong Kong has been implementing. The study required 1,500 volunteers to donate a blood sample. The response to the newsletter was extraordinary, such that we had more than 3,000 volunteers within 4 hours and the study was oversubscribed.

  • The FDA posted a caution against using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment option for COVID-19.[20]
May 2020
  • The Hong Kong government start easing the restrictions implemented in April, allowing beauty salons and gyms to reopen.[21]

OT&P publish a blog asking ‘what we know about COVID-19 and how lifestyle and diet affect the severity of the disease?’

  • There was a confirmed case of a 34-year-old woman with no recent travel history, resulting in an extension of Hong Kong's social distancing measures.[22]
June 2020
  • Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine commences phase 2 trials.[23]
  • A cluster was identified in Kwai Chung and Sha Tin, Hong Kong. As a result, the Hong Kong Government evacuated some residents.[24]
  • The United Kingdom announced that non-essential overseas travel restrictions will be eased 14 day quarantine will be lifted.[25]
  • WHO update face masks guidelines.[26]

Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 10 million.

July 2020

Total COVID-19 cases surpasses 11 million.

  • A cook in a local restaurant is confirmed positive, breaking the 21-day streak of no confirmed local cases.

This also marks the start of Hong Kong's third "wave" with COVID-19.[27]

  • Hong Kong identifies 16 locally infected people from different districts. This is the highest local increase in cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • As a result of the increasing number of local cases, the government reintroduces previous social gathering restrictions.
  • A total of 108 new cases were confirmed, the highest since March. 83 of these cases were local.
  • The Hong Kong government announced a series of new measures, including[28]:
    • Restaurants are unable to offer eat-in services from 6 pm to 5 am. Only takeaway will be available during this time.
    • Mask-wearing is now mandatory in all indoor public places.
    • Gyms, beauty salons and 15 other venues are also temporarily closed.
  • For the sixth day in a row, Hong Kong continues to record new cases that reach triple-digits.[29]
  • As a result, the Hong Kong government announces a series of new measures that will come into effect from July 29th:
    • Gathering in public will be limited to only two people per group. Members of the same family are exempted.
    • Restaurants are unable to offer dine-in services for the whole day. Certain public establishments are exempted, such as eateries in public hospitals.
    • Masks are now required outdoors as well. There are no exemptions for exercising or smoking.
August 2020
  • The UK delays plans to relax remaining restrictions as the virus spikes.[30]

Total COVID-19 cases surpass 20 million.

  • Europe’s coronavirus confirmed cases surge [31]:
    • Germany reports its highest daily increase in cases since May, more than 6,740 people are infected in the past 7 days.
    • France reports 2,524 new confirmed cases today, it is the biggest daily rise in cases since May.
    • Spain is experiencing a second wave of outbreak, 5,487 new cases were recorded on August 9.
  • Japan announces the decision to lift travel restrictions on foreigners’ re-entry, allowing foreigners with resident status to return to Japan from Sep 1.[32]
  • South Korea extends level-2 restrictions until September 6, in response to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases.[33]
  • In the past 11 days, Hong Kong has recorded less than 50 new daily cases.
  • Hong Kong government lifts the social distancing restrictions gradually:
    • Restaurants can now offer dine-in services from 9 pm to 5 am.
    • Beauty salons, cinemas, and some outdoor sports venues can now reopen.
September 2020
September update
  • Hong Kong government launches the universal community testing programme, all Hong Kong residents can get one-off free COVID-19 testing.
  • Hong Kong has recorded less than 20 new cases daily in the past 6 days.
  • Hong Kong government further relaxes social distancing restrictions:
    • Restaurants can now offer dine-in services until 10 pm.
    • Some indoor premises are allowed to reopen, including gyms, and massage parlours.

OT&P 15th newsletter. This is also the first newsletter to have an audio version available. 

OT&P publish findings of a recent study exploring our patient perceptions of the mass testing program: 'Survey of Patient Perceptions of the Hong Kong Mass Testing Program and Recognition of Potential Barriers to Testing'.


Hong Kong government relaxes social distance rules as Covid-19 cases drop [34]:

  • Public group gathering limit rises from two to four people.
  • Wearing a mask is no longer mandatory for outdoor exercise.

Total COVID-19 cases surpass 30 million.

Hong Kong government continues to ease social distancing restrictions as cases decline [35]:

  • Dine-in services at catering premises are extended to 12 pm.
  • Some indoor premises can reopen, includes bars, karaoke, theme parks.

As confirmed cases are rising, the United Kingdom releases new COVID-19 restrictions starting from 24 September, it could last six months [36]:

  • Social gatherings above groups of six are banned.
  • Hospitality venues must close before 10 pm.
  • The number of wedding guests is capped at 15.

Coronavirus cases continued resurging in many European countries:

  • France reported 16,068 confirmed cases, which is higher than the record of 5,483 during the first wave.
  • The UK reported 6,634 confirmed cases, which is the highest daily cases so far.
  • Spain reports 12,245 confirmed cases, recording over 75,000 cases in the past seven days.

We will continue to update this timeline regularly to include major milestones and information. If you’d like to receive updates directly to your inbox, please subscribe to our newsletter.

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