I hesitated before going off-piste like this, and I have no particular point to make. But today my head is more suited for banging in nails than thinking. (You see what I mean? That sounds like I should be banging them in with my forehead or something, which is not exactly what I meant.)

Preamble: I never delete my web history. I never back it up, either, so when Po (my laptop) dies, so will my history. (You might think it is foolish to keep history, and that you should purge it every time you close the browser, etc, etc. You might think it even more foolish to have a name for your laptop. Don’t ask. Don’t ask me why Po hasn’t been shut down in three years either. Because reasons.)

Back in May I was searching said history for an early story about Covid. My personal memory is worse than Firefox’s, but I think I was searching for details about when flights were halted. Something like that. What met my eye was dozens of BBC news articles that I had read in those already half-forgotten days. For all my complaints about Aunty, I always read her headlines with my cornflakes. So I had an almost daily record of the developing pandemic as seen from the screen of Po over breakfast. What follows is unadulterated, unexpurgated, etc, etc. It is my web history at the nexus of BBC and Covid in the start of 2020. The first story I have is from the 5th of January. Obviously I tuned in more and more as the panic rose. The closing date is the start of lockdown: 78 days from normality to the near-collapse of civilisation (he said with only a trace of exaggeration).

Naturally this list does not tell the whole story. One day I might try to piece together a proper chronology of the outbreak – but I am not sure whether there will ever be an authoritative version of such a thing, with so much kept hidden from Western eyes. This particularly applies to the time before media articles began to appear. However.

I have salted the list with one or two stories about climate and other things in their correct place, as well as Cliscep blog posts showing the contemporary thoughts of authors and commenters. [These are in square brackets and are undated.]

Enjoy, if that is the right word, a high speed trip down Memory Lane.

05 January: China pneumonia: Sars ruled out as dozens fall ill in Wuhan
[Iran shoots down airliner]
17 January: New Chinese virus “will have infected hundreds”
20 January: Chinese coronavirus: Number of cases jumps as virus spreads to new cities
22 January: New China virus: Chinese officials advise against travel to Wuhan
22 January: Coronavirus: Wuhan to shut public transport over outbreak
23 January: Newspaper headlines: Fears over deadly virus and “sour” UK-US relations
25 January: China coronavirus accelerating, Xi Jinping warns
29 January: Coronavirus: BA suspends flights to and from mainland China
29 January: Coronavirus: Whole world must take action, warns WHO
30 January: Coronavirus declared global health emergency by WHO
01 February: Coronavirus: US and Australia close borders to Chinese arrivals†
01 February: Coronavirus: UK patient a University of York student
02 February: Coronavirus: First death outside China reported in Phillipines
03 February: Coronavirus: British Chinese people reveal prejudice amid outbreak
04 February: Coronavirus: China admits shortcomings and deficiencies
[Petrol and diesel vehicle ban brought forward to 2035]
[UK aviation industry vows net zero carbon by 2050]
05 February: Coronavirus: Final UK flight to bring home Britons from Wuhan
[Trump acquitted]
06 February: Coronavirus: The economic cost is rising in China and beyond
07 February: Li Wenliang: Death of Wuhan doctor sparks outpouring of anger
10 February: Coronavirus “imminent threat to public health”
11 February: Coronavirus disease named Covid-19
12 February: Coronavirus: “Way too early” to predict end of outbreak, WHO says
13 February: Coronavirus: No change in outbreak despite China spike, WHO says
13 February: Coronavirus: More may need to self-isolate to stop spread – NHS boss
14 February: Coronavirus: Beijing orders 14-day quarantine for returnees
14 February: Coronavirus: Why have two reporters in Wuhan disappeared?
15 February: Coronavirus: First death confirmed in Europe
16 February: Coronavirus: China enacts tighter restrictions in Hubei
[NYT: Senator Tom Cotton repeats fringe theory of coronavirus origins]
19 February: Coronavirus: How a misleading map went global
20 February: Coronavirus: South Korea confirms first death
21 February: Coronavirus: Pregnant nurse “propaganda” sparks backlash
22 February: Coronavirus: Evacuation flight for Britons on Diamond Princess due to land
22 February: Coronavirus: “Narrowing window” to contain outbreak, WHO says
22 February: Coronavirus: South Korea confirms huge rise in cases
23 February: Coronavirus: Italy imposes lockdown in outbreak hotspots
23 February: Coronavirus: Four new UK cases among ship evacuees
24 February: Coronavirus: North Korea quarantines foreigners
24 February: Coronavirus: Credit crunch hits millions of Chinese firms
24 February: Coronavirus: World must prepare for pandemic, says WHO
26 February: Coronavirus: Iran has no plans to quarantine cities, Rouhani says
26 February: Coronavirus cases surge to 400 in Italy
27 February: Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia bars pilgrims as global cases spread
28 February: Coronavirus: Markets fall as Covid-19 spreads around the world
28 February: Coronavirus: British man who was on Diamond Princess dies in Japan
28 February: Coronavirus fears wipe £200 billion off UK firms’ value
29 February: Coronavirus: South Korea sees its largest rise in coronavirus cases
29 February: Coronavirus: Iran’s deaths at least 210, hospital sources say
01 March: Coronavirus: NASA images show China pollution clear amid slowdown
01 March: Chinese manufacturing hits record low amid coronavirus outbreak
01 March: Coronavirus: Italian economy takes a body blow
01 March: Coronavirus: Thirteen more cases confirmed in UK
02 March: Coronavirus cases grow outside China as deaths mount
03 March: Coronavirus: China orders travellers quarantined amid outbreak
03 March: Coronavirus: “Pope tests negative” as global virus goes on
04 March: Coronavirus: Chinese app WeChat censored virus content since 1 Jan
04 March: Coronavirus panic: Why are people stockpiling toilet paper?
06 March: Coronavirus: Asian markets fall amid fears of economic slump
08 March: Coronavirus: Italy escalates response as virus spreads
08 March: Coronavirus: Italy death toll soars amid travel ban
[WUWT: Times: Coronavirus will kill all the old climate skeptics]
09 March: Newspaper headlines: Italy in coronavirus “chaos” and quarantine “farce”
09 March: Coronavirus: Italy starts week in lockdown as cases rise
[WUWT: AFP: The “silver lining” climate benefits of coronavirus will be undone by economic stimulus packages]
[Global shares plunge]
10 March: Coronavirus: Shares slip back as coronavirus fears persist
11 March: Coronavirus: Biggest daily rise as UK cases reach 460^
11 March: Coronavirus: Italy shuts nearly all shops as WHO declares pandemic
12 March: Coronavirus: Trump suspends travel from Europe to US
12 March: Coronavirus: UK shares suffer worst day since 1987
12 March: Coronavirus: Countries enforce mass closures to stem spread
[Cliscep: Into the Unknown]
13 March: Coronavirus: Big swings on Asian markets as coronavirus spreads
14 March: Coronavirus: UK deaths double in 24 hours*
14 March: Coronavirus: Jet2 flights to Spain turn around in mid-air over virus fears
14 March: Coronavirus: Italians sing from their windows to defy coronavirus
14 March: Coronavirus: Spain set to declare national lockdown
14 March: Coronavirus: Scientists say UK virus strategy is “risking lives”
15 March: Coronavirus: How close are we to a vaccine?
15 March: Coronavirus: Europe battens down the hatches as Italy deaths rise
15 March: Coronavirus: EU states record highest one-day death toll
[Cliscep: Don’t just run the country – do something!]
16 March: Coronavirus: US volunteers to test first vaccine
16 March: Coronavirus: Stocks plunge despite global central bank action
16 March: Coronavirus: France “at war” says Macron
16 March: Coronavirus: Trump says coronavirus crisis may last all summer
16 March: Coronavirus kindness: The people offering to help as the virus spreads
16 March: Coronavirus spreading more rapidly in London, PM says
17 March: Coronavirus: Stocks rocked by record volatility
17 March: Newspaper headlines: “Life put on hold” as UK begins coronavirus “lockdown”**
[Cliscep: Books to die for]
17 March: Coronavirus updates: World leaders boost cash help to counter virus fallout
18 March: Sainsbury’s limits sales of all food items amid stockpiling
18 March: Coronavirus: Asian nations face virus battle amid WHO warning
18 March: Coronavirus updates: EU seals borders as supermarkets battle hoarding
18 March: Coronavirus: Vanessa Hudgens sorry for “people are going to die” comments
18 March: Coronavirus: Pound plunges to its lowest level in over 30 years
18 March: Coronavirus: Liverpool restaurant owner “could never repay loan”
19 March: Newspaper headlines: UK schools close as London “prepares for shutdown”
19 March: ECB launches emergency €750bn coronavirus package
19 March: Coronavirus: Energy bill help for vulnerable amid outbreak
19 March: Coronavirus: Knottingley food bank closes after raid
19 March: Coronavirus: Queen urges UK to “work as one” in message to nation
19 March: Coronavirus: Italy’s death toll overtakes China’s
19 March: Coronavirus: Iranians urged to stay home during holiday
20 March: Coronavirus: California issues state-wide “stay at home” order
20 March: Coronavirus: How to help kids cope with life without school
20 March: Is Iran covering up its outbreak?
20 March: Coronavirus updates: Boris Johnson announces stricter new measures
20 March: Coronavirus: US Senators face calls to resign over “insider trading”
20 March: Coronavirus: Four members of New Jersey family die
21 March: Coronavirus: One in five Americans ordered to stay at home
21 March: Coronavirus: Last night of the pubs as lockdown begins
21 March: Coronavirus: Social distancing enforced globally
21 March: Newspaper headlines: Wage bailout as “Britain shuts down”
21 March: Coronavirus: “My virtual date sent me £15 for wine”
22 March: Coronavirus: Seaside visitors defy social distancing advice
22 March: Coronavirus: “Unprecedented scenes” on Welsh hills
22 March: Coronavirus: PM Johnson orders special steps to “shield vulnerable”
22 March: Coronavirus: When will the outbreak end and life get back to normal?
22 March: Step-by-step guide: How to video call your family
22 March: Coronavirus: Germany tightens curbs and bans meetings of more than two
23 March: Newspaper headlines: 24 hours to avoid complete lockdown, PM warns
23 March: People who ignore government advice “selfish”
23 March: Coronavirus updates: “You must stay at home” UK public told
17 days later………………..[Cliscep: Have we won?]


† From the article, 1st February 2020 re: US and Australia closing borders:

…global health officials have advised against such measures. “Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies,” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.


China has criticised the wave of travel restrictions, accusing foreign governments of ignoring official advice. “Just as the WHO recommended against travel restrictions, the US rushed in the opposite direction,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “[It is] certainly not a gesture of goodwill.”

^ Context for that figure of 460 cases on 11 March 2020: yesterday’s update (28 September 2021) reported 34,500 confirmed cases.

* The number of deaths reported on 14 March 2020 was actually 18. This addition probably more than doubled the existing. For context, yesterday’s (28 September 2021) total was 167. For more context, on lockdown day, 23rd March 2020, 76 deaths were reported. But this was the beginning of an exponential upswing.

** 17th March 2020 was the start of lockdown lite. Boris said to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres.

Featured image: UKHSA.gov.uk.


  1. An interesting amble down an unpleasant memory lane. The world has changed a lot since then, and yet in some ways everything has stayed the same. Still, it’s good to look back. I am in a much better place mentally than I was then!


  2. I have most of my internet and email back to 1991 or so.
    And I fear that someone has those hot chats from the 1980’s BBS stored on 5.25 floppies in their garage.
    That’s why I won’t run for office.


  3. Thanks JIT (sarc) All we need to complete our gloom is for you to refer to critical posts from Jaime about Covid 19 leading to her departure. The person I really really feel sorry for is poor po, never given any rest. Do your neighbours know you are mistreating your computer?


  4. The most depressing aspect is revealed at the end of JITs rememberances, when infection rates and deaths back in March 2020 are compared with those of two days ago. Despite previous lockdowns, travel restrictions, double vaccinations and the like, we are seemingly in a worse situation, in terms of numbers, than we were back then. Have we lost the fight? Despite very large percentages of people double jabbed, the infection numbers and deaths remain high. Who are these people that are succumbing? Are they the unvaccinated? Why aren’t we being informed of how many of the double-jabbed/infected but recovered are part of today’s numbers? Too worrying? Opening a can of worms, our governments do not wish to face?


  5. Alan, an interesting point. I too would like to see much more detail behind the bare statistics. One promising difference, however, between March 2020 and now is that In March 2020 we were very much on an upward trajectory with regard to infection rates, illness and deaths. Today the metric that I regard as the soundest indicator of where we are now and where we are going with covid (even if the numbers are over-stated thanks to around 1/4 of those testing positive being in hospital to be treated for something else, and often covid asymptomatic) is the covid hospitalisation number. It seems to have peaked around 10 days ago, at a fraction of earlier peaks, and it has been going consistently down since then.

    The other great improvement is that we are now longer completely heading into the unknown. Much more is known about covid than was known 18 months ago, and treatments have improved. And of course, despite their limitations, we now have vaccines.


  6. There is also the difference that at the start we were instinctively targeting complete erasure of the virus from country and hopefully world. My mistaken belief at that time was that a significant proportion of immunes, whether by infection or vaccine, would lead to the virus burning itself out.

    Instead now we have a widespread fairly low-level conflagration that seems to be going nowhere, despite the high proportion of vaccinated folk and the large number previously infected.

    At this stage a more likely option seems to be a slow decrease in virulence to eventually join the pack of infections jointly classed as “common cold”. [I really hope I’m wrong about that and that it can be erased.]


  7. For me the interesting pattern in the headlines was of inadequate or plain stupid actions at the beginning, slowly ramping up until we swung the other way as desperation increased and we went into the draconian lockdown. Obvious measures earlier might have obviated the lockdown later. We are an island after all. But according to the idiot head of the WHO, travel restrictions might reduce info-sharing.


  8. “Despite very large percentages of people double jabbed, the infection numbers and deaths remain high.”

    The former yes, the latter no. Deaths/week are less than 1/6th the first wave peak, and less than 1/8th the second wave peak. And as Mark notes the direction of travel looks like it’s switching to downwards, plus hospitalisations are also a fraction. The jabs mainly address consequences, not spread. But it would indeed be nice to have the numbers beneath the numbers.


  9. Beg to differ Andy. jIT reports167 deaths for the 28 September 2021 which by my book greatly exceeds the 18 deaths on 14 March 2020. He was not comparing peak deaths, nor was I. My concern is that still we have large numbers of deaths attributed to Covid 19 despite all the measures used against it. I would still like to know just how many deaths, hospital admissions affect those who have already had the disease and/or have been fully vaccinated.


  10. The coronavirus data page is very good, but it has some obvious lacunae. An example: the vaccinations page is brimming with data on how many people have been jabbed how many times, but it is silent about how many of those might have subsequently gone down with a case.

    The uptake is a metric about the uptake, not a metric about how successful the protection by the vaccines is!

    Similarly the hospital admissions page does not stratify by vaccinated and non-vaccinated.


    I will try to find such data by searching elsewhere.


  11. Alan,

    Completely agree about the underlying figures. But on deaths I don’t get why you’re comparing two apparently random days. The contrasted days must be similar relative to wave edges. And any way you cut the cookie, reported deaths for 3rd wave are enormously down on 1st and 2nd. Although still a long way short of full jabs for adults, there was good coverage of 1 jab and fair coverage of 2 by the time the 3rd wave was getting under-way. See the bar chart for ‘number of deaths reported by week’ for the whole pandemic here:

    If your statement is really ‘how can a 3rd wave get underway when so many people are vaccinated’, then a) there were still plenty of unvaccinated around at its start, and b) the jabs mainly reduce consequences not spread and c) there will hopefully always be unjabbed children (I think pushing them into being jabbed is wrong).


  12. Andy. I also agree with you that comparing random days is not very appropriate. But I was struck by what I perceive as a rather meek acceptance of what should be considered as an unacceptable number of deaths one day this week (when we are seemingly lessening control over the disease) with the situation back in March 2020 where a much smaller death toll was being treated as a catastrophe (see headlines) and measures introduced to curtail spread of the virus.


  13. Alan,

    “…back in March 2020 where a much smaller death toll was being treated as a catastrophe (see headlines)…”

    I guess that would be panic 0: At any rate even back then one could see it was the leading edge of a wave – but how big a wave?

    “…rather meek acceptance of what should be considered as an unacceptable number of deaths one day this week…”

    Probably the beginning of the ending of panic. And with knowledge that the 3rd wave is tamed.

    What should matter regarding measures and acceptable thresholds at both dates is a) knowledge (we had none at the start and a great deal now, and b) the deaths / illness relative to many other causes / health issues, plus projected deaths relative to many other causes – the latter clearly has a problem within the no-knowledge phase. In practice, the social psychology of populations as amplified by the media, probably dictates most action and what’s acceptable when.


  14. Andy. I tried to draw attention to what I saw was a very different reaction to daily death rates., today and earlier last year. I offered no explanation. You, Mark and JIT have provided acceptable explanations for these differences, which I have no quarrel with. Nevertheless it could be argued that we have become complacent and accepting of death rates that previously scared us witless. Yes, I know we can find explanations for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. There is a pre-print MS by the Oxford group’s Pouwels et al available on medRxiv. This is the on-going community-based survey of vaccine effectiveness, so if we were wondering why there are presently so many cases, this ought to provide an explanation.

    The first figure – from their Figure 2 – shows the disappointing increase in susceptibility in those who have been double-jabbed (Chadox = Oxford/AZ, BNT = Pfizer/Biontec). I draw your eye to the large purple blob in the middle, which represents a large number of people in the UK aged 35-64 who are double-jabbed with AZ. (Where are the over 65s? Not enough unvaccinated left to calculate the relative risk.)

    The second figure – from their Figure 3 – shows a proxy for infectiousness for infected individuals (higher Ct scores = less infectious) in the different categories. The arrows are mine (red = unvaccinated, green = double vaccinated). The left hand block shows the early data, mostly relating to the Alpha variant. Here, even if a fully-vaccinated person develops an infection, their infectiousness is low (Ct is high). But for the recent infections (right-hand block), relating to the Delta variant, a vaccinated person who develops WuFlu is as infectious as an unvaccinated person who does so.

    So the picture is one of rapidly waning immunity and high infectivity in breakout cases.

    There remains the protection against serious illness and death, and for that I will have to look elsewhere. Update anon.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/12/how-the-earliest-covid-coverage-shaped-our-world

    On the early press coverage of Covid. This struck my eye:

    That same week, some of the Times’ top editors from New York, including Joe Kahn, Michael Slackman, and Ellen Pollock, were in Hong Kong for the paper’s annual Asia all-hands meeting. The discovery of a novel coronavirus was big news, but it didn’t even register on the list of major themes that editors and reporters tossed out during the meeting as coverage targets for the coming year. “Everyone just moved on,” Wee [Sui-Lee, then NYT’s Beijing Bureau reporter] recalled. “The main themes were climate change, demographics, gender. I had prepared a long list of ideas on demographics in China and social issues that I wanted to cover.”

    Liked by 2 people

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