Timeline 2020

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Week 30

19 July – 25 July

This week may be recalled as the timid beginning of the second European COVID-19 wave. At the beginning of the week, bars in Barcelona were ordered to limit the number of clients. On Saturday, Norway and the UK imposed a 10 (UK: 14) day quarantine on all people coming back from Spain, mostly holidaymakers, and Barcelona ordered the closure of discos, dance halls, etc. All over the continent, outbreaks are linked to seasonal farm laborers, family meetings and night life. 2020 tourism was severely affected by the continent-wide spring lockdowns. It is now doubtful that the holiday season will continue to summer’s end.

The daily new cases in Australia:

Figure 30.1. Daily new cases in Australia (blue line: 7-day monthly average).

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Week 29

12 July – 18 July

This week, the publication of detailed results of a phase 1, dose-escalation, open-label trial (14 July) reminded us that the race for a vaccine is gaining momentum. More encouraging results from competitor researchers are expected within days.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is gaining momentum, too, with sad records recorded from all over the world. A new area of concern is Europe, where a second wave may be building up (18 July). In contrast to what happened in March, local epidemics seem now to be fueled by the infection of younger people. Wearing face masks may soon be required in many European countries (16 July).

In the US, daily new SARS-CoV-2 cases are on track to go beyond 100,000. As Rudolf Virchow, the great 19th century father of pathological anatomy, liked to say: “An epidemic is a social phenomenon that has some medical aspects.” (Cited by Bernard Henri-Lévy in Ce virus qui rend fou, Grasset, June 2020)

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Week 28

5 July – 11 July

Week 28 will be recorded as a watershed in the perception of SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk: yes, the virus is transmitted by fat droplets, and yes, it is also transmitted tiny aerosol particles. If this shift is proven to be right, SARS-CoV-2 may go down in history as the virus that unified the almost century-old dichotomy of droplets vs. aerosol transmission. The merit goes to Lidia Morawska and Donald K. Milton, supported by 237 scientists (see also the comment in The Guardian and in The New York Times). In the next days, we will publish an update of our Transmission chapter.

Paterson et al. publish a worrisome article about the neurological complications of COVID-19.

Second waves are leading to partial lockdowns in Australia, Spain, Serbia and Israel while Catalonia and the Balearic Islands order wearing face masks even when the required 1.5-metre social distancing can be observed.

The first wave continues in the US. People in Mexico border towns try to stop Americans from crossing.

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Week 27

28 June – 4 July

This week witnesses an important resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 infections in the US and India. Meanwhile, Europe which has more or less successfully managed the first wave, is holding its breath: will the economically all-important tourist season smoothly go ahead or will it be grounded by a second COVID wave? For now, smaller outbreaks (Gütersloh, Leicester, Lleida) are being kept under control. In this context, the opening of closed space where strangers can meet (bars, brothels and restaurants) may not be a good idea.

In the meantime, the EU opens its borders to 15 countries, car rental companies expect to lose up to 80%, Gilead imposes a price of about 350 euros per dose for its (weak) anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug, China starts testing a vaccine on military personnel, and asymptomatic spread continues – why shouldn’t it.

Astonishingly, the question of using face masks continues to be debated. While you can probably do without them in low-prevalence areas such as most parts of Southern Italy, you are well-advised to wear them in the US. A British journalist stated that not wearing face masks in epidemiological hotspots is like driving drunk. Imagine how people feel who are governed by drunkards.

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Week 26

21- 27 June

This week has seen important local outbreaks. The recurring patterns: family celebrations (Melbourne, Berlin, Lagos) and people living (Malaga, Lisbon), working (Gütersloh, Tokyo, Huesca) or playing (Adria Tennis Tour) close together. The next outbreaks are anticipated in Liverpool, Naples (football celebrations) and some Italian cities (movida).

On 24 June, the US established a new national SARS-CoV-2 record. In Texas, the number of deaths is expected to increase about two to three weeks from now.

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Week 25:  14 – 20 June

Week 24:  7 – 13 June

Week 23 :  31 May – 6 June

Week 1-22