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How a virus with no name spread into a global pandemic

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Eighteen days after a mysterious flu was detected in a wet market in a city in China a confirmed case of the virus broke through international borders.

Eighteen days after a mysterious flu was detected in a wet market in a city in China, a confirmed case of the virus broke through international borders.

It was December 31 last year when China's office of the World Health Organisation was alerted to a pneumonia cluster of an unknown cause.

Forty-four patients had fallen ill, 11 severely to a virus with no name.

Heavy equipment works at a construction site for a field hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province.

By January 13 this year, the virus, known as the novel coronavirus, was detected 2272 kilometres away in Thailand.

Twelve days later it reached Australia after a man from Wuhan – in Central China's Hubei province - tested positive after arriving in Melbourne.

He was not alone.

Travellers returning from the city – believed to be the virus' epicentre – would trigger virus spikes across the globe with confirmed cases being recorded in Japan, South Korea, the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The local case triggered the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise the travel advice for the Chinese province to "do not travel" and a list of possible virus symptoms was made public.

By February, there were 22 confirmed cases of the virus, now known as SARS-CoV-2 and which caused the disease COVID-19, in Australia.

Fifteen were linked to returned travellers and passengers on cruises.

Back in China, the virus had spread rapidly with more than 80,000 cases and the death toll had ballooned to almost 3000 people. But it would not stop there.

Coronavirus: WHO declares global pandemic

Iran soon reported the largest number of deaths outside of China, with many of its cases filtering into Australia and New Zealand.

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Australia and the US closed its borders to Chinese arrivals.

Country lockdowns were also taking place in parts Europe, with Italy, Spain and the UK the worst hit.

On March 11, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, triggering the shuttering of international borders and leaving scores of travellers stranded.

That same day, the multi-billion-dollar National Basketball Association suspended its 2019-20 season after Utah Jazz centre Ruby Gobert tested positive for the virus.

The English Premier League would also pause its season, for a month, while closer to home, the NRL and AFL 2020 seasons were put on hold.

The Tokyo Olympics was postponed for a year, making it one of only three Olympics to be cancelled after the 1916, 1940 and 1944 games were all cancelled due to war.

Hollywood A-lister couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who were in Australia at the time, went public on March 12 after testing positive to the virus at a Gold Coast hospital.

One day later, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton joined Australia's 156 confirmed cases. A day later, the country's numbers spiked to 250 cases.

Local numbers would again spike with the return of passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship docking in Sydney after "inexcusable mistakes" by NSW Health.

Work from home orders were issued across states with thousands of students, including those in Year 12, soon leaving their classrooms for online learning.

By March 13, Prime Minister Scott Morrison formed a National Cabinet – comprising state and territory premiers – in response to the pandemic.

Soon after, strict social distancing restrictions on gatherings, including weddings and funerals, were issued across the country.

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Gyms, pubs, cafes, nightclubs, cinemas, casinos and indoor sporting venues were also closed, with an estimated 220,000 soon to be out of work because of the virus.

On March 20, Mr Morrison closed Australia's borders to all non-citizens and non-residents.

Three days later, Australia's case numbers surpassed 1000. More restrictions were issued.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a four-week lockdown.

In the UK, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the virus, with Mr Johnson's condition, at one stage, so grave he was moved to ICU.

President Donald Trump looks through a face shield while touring Ford Motor Co.'s Rawsonville Components Plant in Michigan.

Japan and Germany would soon declare recessions, with the Australian government announcing a $130 billion wage subsidiary package to help buoy the economy with JobKepper.

In late March, Queensland would shut its borders to all but essential travel and freight. Weeks later, Western Australia followed suit, closing out the eastern states.

By July, Victoria would issue hard lockdowns for 3000 people living in nine housing blocks in Melbourne's north in what would later be deemed a breach of human rights.

In an historic move, the borders between NSW and Victoria would close to the other in July, for the first time in a century. They would remain closed for more than four months.

A month later, following a dramatic surge in daily cases of around 600, Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of emergency and a stage four lockdown.

The announcement offered further pain to the state's residents, many of whom were already halfway through a six-week stage three lockdown.

In early September, Australia's economy plunged into its first recession is almost three decades after GDP shrank seven per cent in the April to June quarter.

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Later that month, grim figures emerged with the coronavirus death toll globally reaching one million.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania tested positive to the virus in October, as would multiple members of Mr Trump's advisors and aides.

At one point, the White House was considered a hotspot after an official gathering in the Rose Garden lacked social distancing.

In the first week of December, the race for a COVID-19 vaccine hit the final stretch with the UK announcing a rollout of doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's offering.

On December 17, French President Emmanuel Macron would also go on to test positive to the virus.

President Donald Trump (centre) stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett on September 26, 2020, as they arrive for a news conference to announce Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington.

Earlier that same day, Christmas plans for thousands of Australians were thrown into limbo after a COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney's Northern Beaches threatened the status of open state borders.

Within just hours, five locally acquired cases jumped to 17. By December 29, the cases linked to the cluster numbered 129, with 122 needing medical treatment.

Thousands of residents returned to stay-at-home orders just days after Christmas in response to the Avalon COVID-19 cluster.

As part of the restrictions, the Northern Beaches was split in two, with gatherings of five outdoors allowed north of the Narrabeen Bridge.

Those in the south can see up to 10 people outside, including children.

Restrictions are expected to ease on January 2, 2021.

Source: 9News

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