From a “funny virus” to a global pandemic: a year ago, the world discovered the Covid-19

As early as December 2019, Chinese doctors warned of the potential severity of a new virus. Since then, more than a million and a half people have died of it worldwide, including 60,000 in France.

Who would have thought a year ago that the whole world would have confined itself for the first time, undermining all economies, even those that seemed the most solid? Systems on their knees because of a then unknown molecule, which appeared on a “dark marketChinese. In one year, the words “Covid-19“,”health situation“,”confinement“,”barrier gestures“,”social distancing” or “contact case»Have entered our daily lives. Words to describe an unprecedented situation that began around December 8, 2019.

End of December: appearance “unknown pneumonia

While France is concerned about pension reform and the SNCF strikes, thousands of kilometers away, in a food market in Wuhan in eastern China, a new contagious virus is developing. Between December 8 and December 30, several Chinese doctors including Li Wenliang, who died of Covid a few months later, alerted on social networks of the potential seriousness of this new virus. It will be necessary to wait until December 31 for the Chinese regional office of the WHO to inform the world structure on several cases of pneumonia. “On December 31, 2019, the WHO China Office was notified of cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.», Reported the WHO in its first official bulletin of January 5. Five days earlier, the seafood and animal market closed its doors for “for environmental sanitation and disinfection“. The WHO reports, as of January 3, 44 affected patients including 11 seriously ill patients.

On January 1, 2020, the Wuhan market closes its doors for health reasons Noel Celis / AFP

However, it was not until January 5 to see the first articles appearing in the French press concerning this “strange Chinese epidemic“.

January: appearance of the word “coronavirus

Chinese authorities on Sunday reported 59 people suffering from a mysterious pneumonia of unknown origin, denying however that it was SARS, a viral disease responsible for hundreds of deaths in 2003. The investigation by health authorities has found that several patients are vendors at a market in Wuhan specializing in the wholesale of seafood and fish.», We wrote on our site. Six days later, in its paper edition, our newspaper headlines: “New virus identified in China after epidemic“. Our journalist Cécile Thibert uses the word “coronavirus», A discovery for many.

The first paper published in Le Figaro on January 11, 2020 in the Sciences section. A brief had preceded a few days earlier. Le Figaro

That same day, the first death after contracting the virus was identified by the Chinese authorities.

Le Figaro reports via information transmitted by AFP the first death due to Covid-19 Le Figaro

Two days later, the first case outside of China was detected in Thailand.

Le Figaro reports the first case outside Chinese territory on January 13, 2020 Le Figaro

But the French population did not yet believe it. The virus still appeared harmless. The former Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn, however declared during a press point on January 21 that the risk of transmission is “weak but cannot be excluded ”. She felt that “Our health system [était] well prepared, the health establishments were informed and management recommendations were issued ”. It was only three days later that France identified its first three cases on its national soil, travelers from Wuhan, hospitalized in Paris and Bordeaux. The tension around the virus is then gradually spreading in France. On January 27, Le Figaro made its headline:

Le Figaro makes the coronavirus its one and its event on January 27, 2020. Le Figaro
Le Figaro made the coronavirus its one and its event on January 27, 2020. In Wuhan, hospitals were urgently built (photo in the article). Le Figaro
At the end of January 2020, the virus was still called 2019-nCoV. Le Figaro

On January 30, WHO declares an international emergency. “This statement is not due to what is happening in China, but to what is happening in other countries. Our greatest concern is the possibility that the virus could spread to countries with weaker health systems ”, specifies the Managing Director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In a month, “the mysterious Chinese virus», In the words of the French press, then unknown to scientists and epidemiologists around the world, has entered and has become an essential topic of the news.

February: from the first French death to the global pandemic

At the beginning of February, 1,400 doctors and nurses were sent to Wuhan to the new emergency hospital built in 8 days. The army must “Take your share” in the fight against “Devil” of the epidemic, ordered the leader, Xi Jinping.

In ten days, a hospital capable of accommodating 1,000 Covid-19 patients was built in Wuhan. HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

After the 200 French expatriates were repatriated from Wuhan and quarantined in Carry-le-Rouet on February 14, France recorded its first death from the coronavirus. This is an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who had been hospitalized in Paris since January 23. Around the world, things are accelerating. Italy also deplores the first victim of Covid-19 on February 21. On February 24, the Director General of WHO, evokes a “Possible pandemic”, judging “Very worrying […] the sudden increase “ new cases. The world already has 79,517 infected people and 2,626 dead.

At the end of February, Olivier Véran, new Minister of Health after the resignation of Agnès Buzyn, declared that a “New stage of the epidemic has been reached […] the virus is circulating on our territory and we must stop its spread ”. It is now impossible for the French to ignore the existence of the virus. The next day, after an extraordinary council of ministers, the government banned all “collective gatheringsIn Oise, one of the main sources of contamination in France. Gatherings of more than 5,000 people “in a confined environmentAre also banned across the country. On TF1, Édouard Philippe, Prime Minister, declares: “Our health system is solid and we have all the weapons to cope.

At the dawn of March, the 3,000 dead mark was crossed around the world. It was not until March 11 that the WHO declared the health situation as a global pandemic. The next day, Emmanuel Macron spoke at 8 p.m. and decided to confine the country for 15 days by closing schools, shops and services called “non-essential“. An unprecedented and unthinkable measure a year ago, when the Covid-19 seemed harmless and so distant.

TO SEE ALSO – What do we know about the origin of Covid-19?


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