This article was updated on 27 March 2020.

  • Since the first detection of COVID-19 in China at the end of last year, it has spread to more than 150 countries and territories.
  • Here's a visualization tracking its spread.

As the world grapples with the increasingly disruptive impact of COVID-19, its origins remain mysterious.

Though differing accounts have been offered, what we know for certain is that the coronavirus was first detected during the final days of 2019 in Wuhan, a Chinese city of about 11 million people in Hubei province – perhaps previously best known in the West as home to the Three Gorges Dam.

Since then, confirmed cases have been reported in more than 150 countries and territories on six different continents. Using data from the World Health Organization and other sources, the World Economic Forum has created a visualization tracking its spread.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID 19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy.

Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

The WHO began issuing situation reports about a pneumonia of “unknown cause” on 21 January, when 278 of its 282 confirmed cases were in China. The visualization begins by tracing the early spread of what eventually became known as COVID-19 within that country.

Below we see Hubei province quickly turn a dark red as the number of confirmed cases there reaches into the hundreds. The shading of other provinces also darkens as their number of reported cases increases. By 26 March – following a period of leveling off – there were 82,078 cases in China, according to Chinese government agencies.

Spread of COVID-19 in China.
Spread of COVID-19 in China.
Image: World Economic Forum

More than 20,000 people have reportedly died as a result of COVID-19 to date. As of 21 January, there were six reported deaths, all of them in Wuhan. However, confirmed cases had already spread to three other countries in Asia.

Below we see the spread of reported COVID-19 cases throughout Asia over time (Japan’s tally includes those on a cruise ship in Japanese territorial waters). By 26 March the WHO was reporting 102,230 cases in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.

Spread of COVID-19 in Asia.
Spread of COVID-19 in Asia.
Image: World Economic Forum

It took a while for Europe to report a significant uptick in confirmed cases. As of 25 January, there were still just three in the region, all in France.

That changed quickly when the number of reported cases in Italy began to spike in late February – an increase that’s reflected below (Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland have also reported sharp increases). As of 26 March, the WHO was reporting 250,053 European cases in total.

Spread of COVID-19 in Europe.
Spread of COVID-19 in Europe.
Image: World Economic Forum

In the US, the first confirmed case arrived relatively early when a 35-year-old man in Washington state checked into an urgent care centre with a nagging cough on 19 January. As of 20 February the WHO was still reporting just 15 confirmed cases in the US. By 26 March, state and local agencies and hospitals in the country were reporting a total of 85,996 cases – surpassing the total in China. Cases are indicated below in expanding dots centred over each affected location.

Spread of COVID-19 in the US.
Spread of COVID-19 in the US.
Image: World Economic Forum

The impact of COVID-19 has now spread across the globe, decimating stock markets, closing schools, triggering border controls, and spurring many people to stockpile food. Below we see the spread of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. As of 26 March, the WHO was reporting 462,684 cases in total.

Spread of COVID-19 globally.
Spread of COVID-19 globally.
Image: World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform contextualizes global issues, industries, and countries in an interactive tool. Many of the topics, including Global Health, feature data visualizations under the “data” tab. You'll need to register to view.

Global health visualization
Discover more global health information and analysis.
Image: World Economic Forum