At the time, there were just over 100,000 cases and less than 5,000 deaths worldwide, but outside of China its spread remained largely unchecked.
Within three months, Covid-19 deaths had overtaken the roughly 360,000 lives claimed by the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu – the only other disease of the last 20 years to be labelled a pandemic by WHO.
Just over eight months after the first death was recorded, the coronavirus death toll has now passed 1 million.
As this milestone is reached, here’s how Covid-19 compares to other pandemics and major epidemics of recent years.
There have been more coronavirus deaths over the last eight months than all other significant disease outbreaks since the turn of the century combined.
When compared to other pandemics that emerged in the 20th century, Covid-19 still remains a long way off.
Coronavirus deaths remain a fraction of those resulting from the Spanish Flu and the Aids pandemic.
Since 2017, global deaths from Aids have fallen below 1 million per year, however at its peak in 2005-06 there were around 2 million deaths caused by the virus.
The current coronavirus death rate gives no indication of slowing down, with daily remaining relatively constant since April.
At the current rate, coronavirus deaths are unlikely to exceed the peak annual deaths of the Aids pandemic.
While global deaths continue to steadily climb, new coronavirus cases are accelerating in more than 70 countries around the world.
The majority of these countries are in the northern hemisphere, where experts fear colder weather could bring more deaths.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, warned on Friday that such circumstances meant the prospect of 2 million coronavirus deaths was “not impossible”.
He said: “The real question is: Are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number?
“The time for action is now on every single aspect of this strategic approach. Not just test and trace, not just clinical care, not just social distancing, not just hygiene, not just masks, not just vaccines. Do it all. And unless we do it all, [2 million deaths] are not only imaginable but unfortunately and sadly very likely.”
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