Timeline of Key Social & Economic COVID-19 events affecting Australia

01 May 2020 by Jacqueline Woods

Recent BRI Ferrier Forensic Accounting articles stress the importance of understanding the timing of events which have impaired, or improved, business’ trading results during the COVID-19 global impact. To assist in identifying what social and economic factors may have been known or knowable at different points in time since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in China, Jacqueline Woods has prepared a broad timeline to share with you.


Earliest case of virus, in Wuhan, China, not then known as COVID-19


Chinese study says first person diagnosed with the new coronavirus started to have symptoms


First cluster of people with "pneumonia of an unknown cause" identified in Wuhan, China


Social media chatter of outbreak of "pneumonia with an unknown cause" started by Dr Li Wenliang, a Wuhan opthamologist


China informs World Health Organisation (WHO) of incidence of "pneumonia with an unknown cause" cluster linked to a fish market in Wuhan

Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection begins monitoring cases in Wuhan


China reports 44 cases to WHO

Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection begins monitoring cases in Wuhan


Scientists in China announce the discovery of a new coronavirus


European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published its first risk assessment on the Wuhan novel coronavirus stating that as there is no indication of human-to-human transmission and no cases outside of China, the risk of it reaching the EU is low but cannot be excluded


First known new coronavirus fatality of a 61 year old Wuhan man reported, but he actually died on 9 January


First case identified outside of China, in Thailand


Japan informs WHO of a confirmed new coronavirus case in Japan, in a person who had travelled to Wuhan


China announces that the new coronavirus is transmissible from human to human


First warning in Australia with a Brisbane man returning from Wuhan tested and quarantined (cleared two days later)

First confirmed new coronavirus case in USA in Washington State


Wuhan is locked down

Sydney airport starts screening passengers arriving from Wuhan


University of Queensland starts working on finding a vaccine

China closes down tourist destinations, restaurants and cinemas


First recorded new coronavirus case in Australia - a Victorian man in his 50s, then three confirmed cases in NSW, also returned travellers from Wuhan

Australia says "do not travel" to China

Hong Kong declares a state of emergency and closes schools and major tourist destinations


Close to 3,000 confirmed new coronavirus cases over 12 countries - China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, USA, Canada and France

Australia has 6 cases with nil deaths


Melbourne's Peter Doherty institute becomes the first to recreate the virus in laboratory conditions


First two confirmed cases in Italy, with a state of emergency declared the next day


WHO declares the virus outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern"


USA closes its borders to all foreign nationals

First death outside China, in the Philippines


Australians evacuated from Wuhan and quarantined on Christmas Island for 14 days


Two Australians contract the new coronavirus on the cruise ship Diamond Princess quarantined off Japan

Australia announces a 14 day ban for non-citizens arriving from China, ban extended further on 20 February


Dr Li Wenliang, the opthamologist who alerted his mates and was reprimanded by Chinese authorities, dies of the new coronavirus


Global cases exceed 43,000 with death toll over 1,000 people

Australia has 13 cases with nil deaths


WHO offically names the new coronavirus as COVID-19: CO(rona)VI(rus)D(isease)(of 20)19


US stock markets at their highest point (Dow Jones at 29,348 points; S&P at 3,386 points; Nasdaq at 9,817 points)


Australian stock market hits a record high at 7,162 points


Italy records its first two deaths, with parts of Italy going into strict lockdown the next day


US stock market falls 3.4%, the worst single day in two years, and marks the start of US stock market decline


WHO reports number of cases outside China exceeds number of new cases in China with China case numbers declining


USA's first COVID-19 fatality in Washington State


Australia's first COVID-19 fatality, a Perth man who had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship


RBA slashes cash rate to record low of 0.5%

Australian supermarket panic buying begins in earnest around this time


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 100,000 with close to 3,500 deaths

Australia has 73 cases with 2 deaths


Italy goes into national lockdown, shortly followed by other European countries


WHO declares COVID-19 a global pandemic


Stock markets worldwide suffer greatest single day fall since stock market crash in 1987

Australian Government announces first round of business financial assistance - $17.6 billion (increasing instant asset write off threshold; cash boost by way of reduction in amounts of PAYG withholding tax to pay to ATO; wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees; increased payments for welfare recipients)


US Government starts financial assistance and social restrictions follow

Australia forms a "National Cabinet" - Federal, State and Territory leaders - to enable a united approach to the COVID-19 crisis


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 150,000 with 5,700 deaths

Australia has 298 cases with 5 deaths

Australian Government bans gatherings of more than 500 people


People arriving in Australia from overseas must self isolate for 14 days and we are told to start implementing stricter social distancing rules

Australian stock market plunges 9.7% (at 5,002 points), its largest one day fall since the 1987 stock market crash, losing $165 billion in value, and 30% down on its peak of 20 February 2020 (at 7,162 points) and at its lowest point so far

US benchmark interest rate cut to 0 to 0.25 %, effectively zero

Australian supermarkets impose purchasing limits on staple items


Australian Government bans all international travel 


Australian Government bans indoor gatherings of more than 100 people

International airline travel ceases and domestic airline travel plummets 


Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin supend all international flights and Qantas stands down 20,000 employees

RBA slashes cash rate to record low of 0.25%


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 234,000 with 9,800 deaths

Italy's death toll passes China's 

Australia has 875 cases with 7 deaths

Australian government imposes strict social distancing of 4 sqm per person


Australia bans non-citizens and non-residents from entering Australia while incoming citizens/residents must self quarantine for 14 days

UK locks down and announces wage subsidies


Australian Government announces second round of business financial assistance - $66 billion (increase in earlier announced cash boost and payments for welfare recipients; guaranteed loan scheme with 3 year term and interest free for first 6 months)

Australian Government announces greater leniency for insolvency and bankruptcy as well as temporary relief for directors trading whilst insolvent


Australia starts to lock down - bars, clubs, cinemas, places of worship, casinos and gyms are closed; schools start to close

Around this time marks the peak of the growth of new daily cases in Australia

US stock markets at their lowest point so far (Dow Jones at 18,592 points; S&P at 2,237 points; Nasdaq at 6,861 points) - down more than 30% since 19 February 2020


The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is postponed to 2021


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 410,000 with almost 19,000 deaths

Australia has 2,432 cases with 9 deaths

Australia closes its borders


Australia locks down some more - restaurants, cafes, food courts, auction houses are closed; open house inspections banned; weddings restricted to 5 people in total; funerals to 10 people


Many shops in Australia close their doors and stand down staff and so begins a sudden and swift mass growth of the unemployed numbers


Australian Government announces six month moratorium on rental evictions

Australian Government urges Australians to stay at home other than for food shopping, medical or care needs, exercise or work/education that cannot be done at home

Australian Government states that no more than two people may be together in public


Australian Government announces third round of business financial assistance - $130 billion (wage subsidies in the form of Jobkeeper payments backdated to 1 March)


More than one third of the world's population is under some type of lockdown


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 820,000 with 40,500 deaths

Australia has 4,864 cases with 21 deaths, but growth rate of new cases reducing significantly


Australian Government announces that childcare will be free for essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis

Australian supermarkets increase in store social distancing measures


Australian Government says do not go on easter holidays, just stay at home


Australian Government announces mandatory code for commercial tenancies


Global cases of COVID-19 surpass 1 million with close to 100,000 deaths

Australia has 6,203 cases with 53 deaths


Global cases of COVID-19  around 2.5 million with around 176,000 deaths

Australia has 6,661 cases with 75 deaths


Australian Government declares that relaxation of restrictions will be examined on 11 May 2020

USA expects to reduce restrictions and reopen the economy in May 2020


Global cases of COVID-19  around 3.1 million with almost 218,000 deaths

Australia has 6,762 cases with 92 deaths as of 6am on 1 May 2020

And all that in 5 months! As of 1 May 2020 Australian States and Territories are starting to plan easing of social distancing restrictions. We will be watching what happens as the restrictions ease and businesses attempt to ramp up and will update the timeline as time progresses.

Disclaimer: The above timeline is general in nature and should not be relied upon as a definitive resource. It excludes State & Territory specific events. Events on specific dates intended to be relied upon for legal or official purposes should be independently researched by the user.