TORONTO -- Around the world, new COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to mount. From Canada to South Korea, every country has responded differently -- in some cases, quite significantly, resulting in vastly different outcomes.

 

Curious how different countries are faring? You can chart and compare the progression for jurisdictions that have reported more than 100 cases using our interactive graphs below.

An overview of the pandemic's progression -- from early containment measures to where things stand now -- are highlighted in a few, select examples below.

 

 

Provinces, territories and global jurisdictions with fewer than 100 cases are not included.

 

The World Health Organization was informed of several unusual cases of pneumonia in Wuhan on Dec. 31, 2019 and issued a press release on Jan. 5, 2020 regarding 44 cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause in China.

By Jan. 30, the international health agency declared the outbreak a "public health event of international concern", amid 18 countries reporting a combined total of 83 cases, with seven involving no travel history to China and three countries reporting human-to-human transmission. According to a WHO spokeswoman, this declaration was meant to prevent a pandemic from happening. At this point, China had reported more than 7,700 confirmed cases, more than 12,000 suspected cases, and 170 people dead. The WHO advised all countries to prepare for containment, including early detection, isolation, contact tracing and to share their data with the WHO, but did not make recommendations on travel or trade restrictions at the time.

The novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV was officially named COVID-19 on Feb. 11 as the WHO warned against actions that promoted stigma or discrimination.

By Feb. 21, the health agency was warning the international community that the window to contain the COVID-19 outbreak was narrowing, but did not formally start calling it a global pandemic until March 11, 2020.

Six months after the declaration, data compiled by the AFP news agency found that roughly half of the world’s population -- some 3.9 billion -- had experienced some level of lockdown measure by their country. At the official pandemic half-year point, there were nearly 30 million reported cases around the world, and more than 910,000 reported deaths. Following a summer drop in cases in some parts of the world, many regions, including Europe, are experiencing what some experts believe is a “second wave”.

The Public Health Agency of Canada formally activated its Emergency Operation Centre on Jan. 15, but unlike other countries that initiated screening measures for air passengers coming in from China early on, Canada did not initiate extra precautions until Jan. 22, when it added warning signs at major Canadian airports to raise awareness of the new novel coronavirus. New health screening requirements were also implemented for all passengers coming from China to airports in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Three days later, on Jan. 25, the first case in Canada was confirmed in a patient returning from Wuhan, China.

The federal government announced it would be repatriating Canadians in China at the end of January, as Global Affairs Canada increased its risk level for China to “avoid non-essential travel”, amid frustration among expats that the government was failing to communicate and help its citizens abroad. Those returning from China would be quarantined for two weeks. Over the coming days, airport screening requirements would be expanded.

By Feb. 20, Canada confirmed its first case related to travel outside China. As the global situation appeared more dire, Canada’s minister of health recommended stockpiling food and medication “because things can change quickly.” By early March, B.C. confirmed the first case of community transmission in Canada, while Ontario reported its first evidence of it in mid-March.

For a long time, however, the messaging from Canadian health officials was that the novel coronavirus outbreak risk for Canadians was low and that efforts would be concentrated on containing the spread. Government officials were also guided by advice from the World Health Organization, which had initially discouraged travel restrictions, border closures and the wearing of masks, positions that were later criticized and reversed as the spread became increasingly dire in many countries.

Provinces and territories went into high alert in mid-March, as the WHO formally declared a global pandemic, with states of emergencies declared across Canada and different regions implementing various levels of restrictions on social gathering sizes. Schools closed across the country, along with daycares, and non-essential businesses. Events and activities involving large groups of people were cancelled as the public was advised to practice physical distancing.

By mid-March, Canadians were advised to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country indefinitely, with Canadians returning from abroad asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Anecdotally, some returning passengers noted that “screening” measures at airports still appeared minimal given the circumstances, with federal officials saying there was no need for additional measures like recording temperatures of travellers.

As the tally of cases grew in Canada, it became increasingly clear that many of the cases were linked to the United States. The level of movement between the two countries made containment impossible without drastic measures. By midnight on March 18, Canadian borders were closed to all but Canadians, their families, residents, and Americans, with international flights redirected to airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. On March 20, the 8,891-kilometre-long U.S.-Canada border also closed to non-essential travel and remains closed.

The Quarantine Act was invoked on March 25 and all in-bound travellers were required to self-isolate for two weeks.

As infections rose in Canada, long-term care homes, especially in Ontario and Quebec, suffered a disproportionately devastating impact, with more than 80 per cent of the total deaths in Canada attributable to outbreaks at hundreds of these facilities.

The territories and East Coast provinces have remained mostly unscathed throughout the pandemic so far, with very few cases and deaths -- if any -- reported in these jurisdictions compared to the rest of the country. Atlantic provinces also formed their own travel “bubble” and tightened provincial borders with measures that limited travellers into the region.

The rest of the country began turning a corner in early May, some three-and-a-half months after its first case was identified. The number of new infections fell and the daily death toll dropped as low as the single digits from a peak of 177, prompting provinces to slowly reopen again.

By mid-July, however, Western Canadian provinces were seeing the number of new cases rise again. Regions like Ontario and Quebec began seeing the curve bend upwards by mid-August. As tens of thousands of children returned to in-class schooling, the daily number of new cases continue to climb, in some cases to new records. While the death rate for ICU admissions for the coronavirus have improved significantly over the last half-year, health-care providers are bracing for a “second wave” that could strike harder when combined with the cold and flu season

For more background on Canada’s handling of COVID-19, read our report detailing the evolution of Canada’s plans to fight the virus, the response by each province, and track every case.

 

The country was hit hard by COVID-19, but received attention early in the pandemic due to its low mortality rate compared to other European countries at the time.

Early during the outbreak, the government considered the new disease a "very low threat" and far less dangerous than SARS, making travel warnings unnecessary. But less than a week later, on Jan. 27, health officials confirmed the country's first case of the novel coronavirus. Two days after, Lufthansa, Germany’s flagship airline, suspended all flights to China.

According to media reports, face masks were quickly sold out, and measures to screen travellers from high-risk regions of China were placed at Frankfurt Airport, which has no direct flights to and from Wuhan. In mid-February, the German health minister rejected temperature screenings for inbound travellers and believed travel restrictions between China should be a decision made across Europe, rather than done unilaterally by individual countries. Towards the end of the month, however, travellers arriving from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Italy were required to provide more information for contact tracing purposes, as were rail passengers, amid stricter land border patrols.

Some regions of Germany began closing schools and other public places by late February, while some sporting events were suspended or cancelled altogether. Organizers of the world’s largest travel trade fair cancelled the event a week before launch. By early March, the government officially recommended that German states ban events involving more than 1,000 people. Berlin closed its theatres, concert halls and opera houses just before the WHO formally declared a pandemic.

Just two days before the pandemic declaration, two seniors became the first COVID-19 deaths in Germany. Infections were doubling at this point.

In the days that followed the pandemic declaration, parts of Germany launched drive-through COVID-19 testing, land borders surrounding the country were fully closed, while 14 out of 16 German states closed its schools and kindergartens. The government recommended against all non-essential domestic and foreign travel; flights from Iran and China were also suspended.

The European Union also agreed on an immediate travel ban into Europe for all non-EU citizens, while Germany expanded its list to include citizens from Italy, Spain, and other EU countries. Many of these changes were a reversal of the German health minister’s position in early March discouraging border closures.

A national curfew was enacted on March 22, which allowed people to leave their home only to work, buy groceries, etc. Gatherings were limited to no more than two people from different households, while physical distancing was required. Restaurants and other services closed on April 2.

By early April, Germany’s mortality rate stood at less than 1.5 per cent while Italy’s stood at around 12 per cent. Spain, France and Britain were roughly 9 to 10 per cent. Earlier during the pandemic, the testing rate for the latter three countries was also a fraction of Germany's, with some media reports indicating that Germany was able to ramp up extensive testing more quickly and earlier.

Germany also has more than double the number of hospital beds in Italy and Spain, according to OECD data, and a number of media reports cited Germany's "expensive and extensive" public health care system as a key reason for the lower mortality rate. Like many other countries, however, there was ongoing concern over a shortage of masks and other protective equipment during the height of the country’s outbreak.

Germany's outbreak also began mostly among young and healthy skiers who caught the virus at European ski resorts and the overall average age of infected patients early in the pandemic was more than a decade younger than its neighbouring countries. At first, the government appeared reluctant to impose physical distancing measures, travel restrictions, school and border closures, even as it advised against unnecessary travel and asked recent travellers from high-risk destinations to stay home.

The country began easing restrictions in May, with an “emergency brake” set-up for restrictions to be reinstituted locally if infections climbed above a threshold of 50 per 100,000 residents.

The outbreak there peaked in early April, when it was reporting more than 6,000 new cases a day. For a period after the decline, it was steadily reporting several hundred new cases each day, but like many other places in Europe, Germany’s curve for new cases began rising slowly again around mid-July. While case numbers remain far from the peak in spring, there are no signs yet the upward trajectory is reversing course.

The overall number of infections in Germany remains around the top 20 globally, but on a caseload and deaths per capita basis, the country ranks between 90 and 100, far below many of its European counterparts.

 

India has reported one of the highest number of total cases in the world. There was significant worry that COVID-19 could be devastating for the world’s second most populous country. Despite the high risk of spread due to its dense population, testing was extremely limited in the beginning and remains on the lower end compared with other many countries on a per capita basis.

There were reports of outbreaks in slums, where families live in extreme poverty and crowded conditions. A sudden lockdown imposed across the country in March sparked a mass exodus of migrant labourers back to their home villages, spurring worries of possible outbreaks in regions poorly equipped to handle a health-care crisis. According to the OECD, India has just 0.5 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, for example -- China, by comparison, has 4.3 beds.

Despite these and other concerns, the number of reported deaths per capita and case fatality rate for India sits far below many other countries -- though the data has been called “sparse, and sporadic”. By mid-April, masks were mandatory across India. The country was reopening by early June amid concerns over the massive economic costs of staying closed, and despite worries that the move was too risky and too soon.

Timeline of Key Early Events and Measures

Jan. to Feb.

  • India evacuates its citizens from China and citizens advised to refrain from going to China
  • Travellers returning from China will be quarantined

Feb. to March

  • Indian citizens evacuated through the months of February and March from various parts of the world, including China, Iran, Italy, and the UK

Early to Mid-March

March 16

March 18

  • Travellers from EU, U.K., Turkey - even Indian passport holders - are banned from entering

March 22

  • More than 75 districts and major cities where cases have been identified are locked down except essential services

March 24

 

In March, Italy became the centre of the worst outbreak outside of China at the time, with deaths at one point doubling every few days. Within two short weeks, daily cases spiked to a high of more than 6,500 and daily death tolls hit as high as 971. The country instituted an unprecedented lockdown, considered by many to be the most drastic response outside China at the time.

The elderly were hit especially hard, a pattern that would be repeated later in places like Canada. The percentage of Italy’s population over 65 is the second highest in the world, second only to Japan, according to the world bank. “Dozens” were dying in nursing homes in the worst-affected areas, but were untested due to strict testing rules, according to media reports.

Testing ramped up slowly early in the pandemic, with the eligibility criteria varying between jurisdictions. In the small town of Vo, mass testing was said to help quickly contain the spread. Leaders, including the president, downplayed the outbreak in the early days, resulting in initial complacency.

While the country’s first case was identified in mid-February, a national waste water study in June found the virus was detected in samples collected in December, indicating that when doctors first reported cases in China, the virus was already present in Italy too.

Italy’s mortality in March was 41,329, roughly double that of the previous five years, according to a report published in July. This included 5,000 deaths not included in the toll attributed to COVID-19, suggesting how undercounted initial numbers likely were.

Italy turned a corner in April and by June, was steadily reporting roughly 200 to 300 new cases a day, with deaths generally falling to under 20 a day. The country began significantly easing restrictions in mid-May and by late July, also reopened its borders to tourists from more than two dozen countries.

Timeline of Key Early Events and Measures

Jan. 23

Jan. 31

  • Government suspends all flights to and from China
  • Third country after Czech Republic and Greece to no longer receive and process visa applications in China
  • State of emergency is declared

Feb. 22

  • 11 municipalities in Northern Italy are placed under quarantine, locking down 50,000+ people, penalties for violation include fines and prison
  • Schools/universities close in the affected areas
  • Public events, religious services, train service to affected areas, sporting events, carnivals including Venice are all cancelled or suspended

Feb. 24

  • 500 police officers added to patrol quarantined regions
  • Key buildings, such as the Palazzo Madama, install thermal scanners for everyone entering premise

March 4

March 8

  • Quarantine expands to all of Lombardy and more than a dozen other northern provinces, putting 16 million people under lockdown
  • Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announces nationwide closure of commercial businesses, museums, entertainment venues, etc.

March 9

  • All of Italy (60 million people) goes under quarantine
  • Sports events within the country are cancelled

March 11

March 19

March 20

March 21

 

New Zealand, which reported its first case roughly a month after Europe and North America, may have benefited from seeing how its counterparts in Europe and North America fared. It is notable how quickly the country moved to mitigate the spread by closing its borders even when only a handful of cases were reported. At its peak, the country reported just 95 new cases. Since late April, New Zealand has maintained zero to less than five new cases a day and only a handful of deaths in total.

By mid-May, all lockdown measures had been lifted except size limits on social gatherings and physical distancing. Following the recovery of its final active case of COVID-19 at the time, all restrictions except for border closures were lifted by June 9. After more than three weeks without a new case, however, two travellers who had arrived from Britain tested positive in mid-June, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to put the military in charge of its border quarantine operations.

Timeline of Key Early Events and Measures

Jan. 28

Feb. 3

  • Any traveller who left from China or transited through the country would not be allowed to enter the country
  • Only citizens and permanent residents allowed
  • Travel advisory for all of mainland China has been raised to "do not travel"

Feb. 6

Feb. 27

  • Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand have been added to the list of countries and regions of concern when medical professionals are assessing patients

Feb. 28

March 14

  • All travellers returning are required to self-isolate for 14 days, including citizens
  • Non-citizens who violate self-isolation rules must leave after quarantine​

March 18

March 19

March 20

  • Public facilities such as libraries, community centres, museums close in key cities

March 23

  • All schools close
  • With just over 100 cases, government decides to raise national alert level to 4 in two days, which triggers a highly restrictive four-week nationwide lockdown
  • Bars, restaurants and other non-essential services ordered to close within two days
 

Testing in the United States was severely hampered in the first several weeks according to medical journal articles and numerous media reports. Screening was “rationed” because only CDC – not public health or hospital labs – could run the tests initially, with a strict criteria for testing only those with known exposure. State labs also ran into verification problems with the CDC test kits, with results coming back “inconclusive or invalid due to failure of the negative control”. Under pressure by state labs to expand testing capacity, the FDA finally allowed them to develop and use their own tests by the end of February. But even when the testing criteria was loosened and testing capacity ramped up, the demand far exceeded availability.

Compounding the regulatory and technical problems with testing was the varying political response from all levels of government, with cities and states and the White House reacting with skepticism to urgency to conflict over the situation, despite warnings. Even prior to the outbreak in China, government reports and pandemic prep exercises as late as last year were not taken seriously. The world’s richest country “squandered” an entire month, a New York Times investigation said.

New York became the centre of the U.S. outbreak by late March, with more confirmed cases than any other country outside the U.S., according to one media report. Hospitals, health care workers, and the 911 emergency response system were all reportedly overwhelmed, with one doctor describing the situation at his hospital as “apocalyptic”.

By mid-April, all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. were under a disaster declaration as the number of COVID-related deaths in the U.S. crossed the 20,000 mark and surpassed Italy, becoming the highest in the world. Many parts of the country issued stay-at-home orders, cancelled mass-gatherings like sporting and music events, and closed schools.

While the total number of cases still surged from about half a million to two million over the following two months and deaths soared past 100,000, the restrictions helped cap the rise in daily new infections and deaths during that period, with the curve marginally sloping downward.

But as states began reopening, that modest dip in new infections made a dramatic upward reversal that eclipsed what unfolded between March and April. The explosion of cases nearly doubled in just over a month, hitting Arizona, Florida and Texas the hardest. Meanwhile, leadership at all levels of government continued to be unco-ordinated, with mayors clashing with state governors over measures including wearing face masks, and reopenings of businesses and schools. Testing remained contentious. As other countries gird for the possibility of a “second wave,” experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci, said the U.S. never emerged from the first.

Timeline of Key Early Events and Measures

Jan. 21

Jan. 29

  • White House Coronavirus Task Force established to “monitor, prevent, contain, and mitigate” the pandemic’s spread

Jan. 31

Feb. 2

Feb. 26

  • Evidence of community spread as first U.S. case of unknown origin identified in California as CDC warns U.S. to prepare for outbreak.

Feb. 29

March 1

  • Florida declares public health emergency, with several other states, including New York, following suit over the following days

March 3

  • Testing restrictions are officially lifted, leaving it up to medical professionals to determine if a patient should be tested

March 11

March 12

  • CDC recommends against non-essential travel to several countries and regions including China, most of Europe, and Iran

March 13

March 16

  • Flights from restricted countries must land at designated airports with enhanced screening
  • White House advises against gatherings of more than 10 people

March 19

  • Government issues a global “do not travel” advisory for its citizens

March 20

  • Additional travel restrictions are imposed on foreign nationals who had visited Europe within the previous two weeks
  • Additional quarantine and monitoring measures are added to earlier travel restrictions
  • U.S.-Canada announces temporary restriction of all non-essential travel between the two countries

March 21

  • Governors in NY, California, and other large states are ordering most businesses to close and for people to stay indoors, with varying exceptions

March 24

  • 15 states impose lockdown orders in less than a week

March 28

  • Only 2,250 tests per million have been performed, two-thirds of what South Korea was able to accomplish three weeks earlier, since regulations around testing were loosened four weeks earlier, according to the Washington Post

 

 

South Korea initiated containment measures almost immediately after China reported the unknown pneumonia cases to the World Health Organization - even before the global health agency issued a press release. The first case was identified just weeks later, caught during heightened airport screening. Health officials quickly and aggressively ramped up their testing capacity, contact tracing, tracking, and quarantine measures in a national, co-ordinated, and detailed fashion, allowing for early mass testing.

A high-level of transparency -- at times seen as controversial and intrusive -- allowed for real-time anonymous information to be shared with the public and used for tracking. Taking information from phone GPS tracking, credit cards, and CCTV cameras, officials are able to trace the movements of an infected patient and alert those who were in contact or nearby. Officials are also alerted when an infected individual ventures outside their quarantine zone through a phone app.

Patient 31” was identified around mid-February, and was the source of a major outbreak. Drive-through testing sites were established quickly, offering citizens an efficient way of getting tested while minimizing exposure to others, with results sent via text within three days.

The number of daily new infections peaked by the end of February before dropping sharply. Since the start of April, South Korea has reported less than 100 new cases daily. Since the first case was identified, daily deaths have yet to exceed the single digits.

South Korea never enacted strict nationwide lockdown measures like many other countries. Inbound travellers are subject to quarantine and depending on where they are coming from, may require automatic testing on arrival. Infected people are isolated and those who come in contact with them are put into quarantine. Mask wearing is extremely common everywhere. Physical distancing and staying home were highly encouraged in late March, and schools were closed, but much of the country otherwise operated and continues to operate under relatively minimal restrictions. Nightlife establishments in Seoul, however, were closed indefinitely in May after a number of cases were linked to an infected individual who visited nearly half a dozen nightclubs in one evening.

Timeline of Key Early Events and Measures

Jan. 3

  • Quarantine and screening measures placed for all travellers coming from Wuhan, China (WHO issued a press release on Jan. 5)
  • Health authorities strengthen national surveillance of pneumonia cases in hospitals

Jan. 20

  • First case of COVID-19 is identified in a traveller from Wuhan through thermal screening during entry at Incheon International Airport
  • Infectious disease alert is raised to from blue to yellow (level 2)
  • Public told to continue hand washing, cough etiquette, and mask-wearing if they have respiratory symptoms
  • National hotline available for public to report symptoms within 14 days of travel

Jan. 21

  • Government issues travel recommendations and advisories for travellers to China
  • Inbound travellers who visited Wuhan within 14 days are asked to submit health questionnaire and to report to health officials if fever or respiratory symptoms develop

Jan. 27

  • Concerned that the novel coronavirus could become a pandemic, health officials and more than 20 medical companies meet to discuss urgency of developing effective test, promising “swift regulatory approval,” according to a Reuters investigation
  • The first diagnostic test from a company is approved within a week (Feb. 4) and a second company is ready by Feb. 12

Jan. 28

  • All inbound travellers (Korean and foreign) coming from anywhere in China subject to tougher screening and quarantine measures, including a health questionnaire at the point of entry; false information subject to a fine of up to US$10,000
  • Infectious disease alert raised to “orange” - level 3

Jan. 29

  • Additional staff added to the KCDC’s national call centre to deal with an influx in calls for consultation
  • Additional law enforcement and health staff added to airport quarantine checkpoints

Feb. 1

  • Occupational safety and health agency to provide 720,000 masks to industries and workplaces considered more vulnerable to infectious diseases due to the large number of foreign employees or visitors. These include construction, manufacturing and service industries

Feb. 2-4

  • Anyone with contact with patients who tested positive must self-isolate for 14 days
  • Foreigners arriving from Hubei province are barred from entering the country
  • A separate airport arrival hall is created for travellers from China
  • Visitors must provide domestic contact information that is verified prior to entry

Feb. 3

  • Daycare centres, nursing and long-term care facilities asked to temporarily close if anyone, including visitors, test positive or is a contact of a positive case

Feb. 12

  • Strict quarantine measures for arrivals expand to include Hong Kong and Macao
  • The number of diagnostic test kits available, which have increased dramatically from 200 to 3,000 per day, continues to ramp up (goal is capacity for 10,000 a day, which they eventually exceed)

Feb. 20

  • Confirmed cases jump, attributed to “Patient 31,” identified two days earlier, who participated in a large church gathering in Daegu

Feb. 23

  • Government announces plans to designate certain hospitals as national infectious disease hospitals with orders to transfer all existing patients to other healthcare facilities by Feb 28
  • Infectious disease alert raised to "red" or level 4, the highest threat level
  • All citizens in the city of Daegu asked to self-isolate for two weeks and those with symptoms to get tested
  • First drive-through testing site is launched

Feb. 25

  • South Korea to test tens of thousands of members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a key point of exposure by "Patient 31" and the main cluster

Feb. 29

  • KCDC advises "social distancing" until early March and maintain good hygiene practices

Late. Feb

  • Businesses allowed to stay open, but many check temperatures before at the door, and offices, hotels, etc. have thermal cameras to screen for fevers
  • Public libraries, museums, churches, daycare in Daegu closed

March 6

March 9-16

  • Similar to those coming from China, all inbound travellers (both citizens and foreigners) from Japan, Italy, Iran, and within days - rest of Europe - must undergo special immigration screening, including installing a Self-Diagnosis Mobile App where they must submit daily results for 14 days (authorities will follow-up in person if travellers fail to comply with self-checks) and advised to “minimize movement”

March 17

  • Government declares several cities including Daegu "special disaster zones"
  • Reopening of daycare centres and new school semester postponed to April 5 and 6 respectively

March 18-19

  • Government advises South Koreans to cancel all non-urgent international travel
  • All travellers entering Korea must undergo special screening, including a health questionnaire, contact information, and install the Self-Diagnosis Mobile App

March 22

  • Every person at high-risk facilities in Daegu are being tested with almost 95 per cent tested already
  • All travellers arriving from Europe will automatically be tested
  • Public urged to practice social distancing until April 5 and stay home as much as possible aside from work and getting essentials
  • Restrictions placed for high-risk places such as churches, entertainment and sports facilities

March 25

  • All travellers arriving from the U.S. will be tested at the airport