A year of the pandemic, in 26 photos

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A man looks out of the window of his home during the coronavirus pandemic. Deliris/Shutterstock
  • It’s been almost a year since the Chinese government first notified the World Health Organisation about the novel coronavirus.
  • Since then, more than 78 million people have contracted COVID-19, and more than 1.7 million have died.
  • Here are some of the most striking photos of the pandemic’s impact so far.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Almost a year ago, on December 31, 2019, the Chinese government notified the World Health Organisation about a cluster of 41 patients with a mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan.

Now, over 78 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 1.7 million have died.

The US has the highest total number of cases and deaths of any country: The virus has killed more than 323,000 Americans and sickened more than 18 million. Since October, the country’s daily death toll has soared from about 700 to over 2,600.

Below are some the most striking images photographers have captured of the pandemic’s impact around the world.


China recorded its first coronavirus death on January 11.


Two months later, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. In Italy, an early hotspot, grim images emerged of severely ill patients in hospitals. Videos also showed people singing from balconies during lockdown.

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A nurse attends to a COVID-19 patient wearing a CPAP helmet at the Pope John XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Italy, April 7, 2020. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

By late March, 2.6 billion people were under lockdown worldwide. New York City quickly became the first US epicentre.

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Ballet dancer Ashlee Montague wears a gas mask while she dances in Times Square during the COVID-19 outbreak in Manhattan, New York City, New York, March 18, 2020. Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Images showed city workers preparing mass graves for unclaimed bodies of people who’d died of COVID-19.

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Drone pictures show bodies being buried on New York’s Hart Island, where the department of corrections is dealing with more burials amid the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, New York, April 9, 2020. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

New York City saw so much death that excess bodies had to be stored in temporary refrigerated tractor trailers.

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Refrigerated tractor trailers used to store bodies are seen at a temporary morgue, with the Statue of Liberty in the background, during the COVID-19 outbreak in Brooklyn, New York, May 13, 2020. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Cases rose more slowly in San Francisco. Visitors to Dolores Park gathered within drawn circles to maintain social distancing.

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Circles on the grass aim to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by encouraging social distancing, in Dolores Park in San Francisco, California, May 21, 2020. Noah Berger/AP Photo

The virus has proved deadliest when it spreads among people living or working in crowded, enclosed spaces, like nursing homes.

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Agustina Canamero, 81, and Pascual Perez, 84, hug and kiss through a plastic film screen to avoid contracting the coronavirus at a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain, on June 22, 2020. Emilio Morenatti/AP

As hospitals restricted visitors, and in some cases banned them, relatives of dying COVID-19 patients had to say goodbye via phones and iPads.

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A phone is placed next to Antonio Navarro, a 65-year-old COVID-19 patient, so his son, Jose, could say goodbye. Navarro’s wife, Romelia (left) weeps at his bedside at St. Jude Medical Centre in Fullerton, California, July 31, 2020. Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, quickly emerged as the authoritative face of the US government’s COVID-19 response.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci appears at a news conference about the coronavirus at the White House in Washington, DC, April 9, 2020. Andrew Harnik/AP

President Donald Trump drew criticism for refusing to wear a mask in public and downplaying the threat of the virus.

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President Donald Trump tours a Honeywell factory producing N95 masks, in Phoenix, Arizona, May 5, 2020. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

As statewide lockdowns led to soaring unemployment, Americans lined up in droves at food banks.

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Hundreds of residents affected by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic line up in their vehicles to collect groceries from the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas, April 17, 2020. Adrees Latif/Reuters

When a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in May, an estimated 26 million people protested in the streets. The mostly masked protesters didn’t drive a major COVID-19 surge, according to researchers.

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Motorists are ordered to the ground from their vehicle by police during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 31, 2020. John Minchillo/AP

By June, nations like Spain had begun to ease lockdown restrictions. On its first day of reopening, a Spanish opera house played to a crowd of nearly 2,300 plants.

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Nursery plants are seen in seats during a rehearsal, as Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu opera reopens its doors with a concert for plants during the COVID-19 outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, June 22, 2020. Nacho Doce/Reuters

In the US, 93% of households with school-aged children reported they engaged in some form of remote learning. Some students still graduated in person, though.

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Richardson Fremond leaps over a wall as he runs to collect an award during the Chambers High School graduation ceremony in Homestead, Florida, on June 23, 2020. The ceremony was held at the race track to enable social distancing, with graduates crossing the start-finish line to receive diplomas. Wilfredo Lee/AP

In July, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro announced he’d tested positive for COVID-19. By then, Brazil had become a coronavirus epicentre.

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A car is seen between graves at Vila Formosa cemetery during the outbreak of COVID-19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 16, 2020. Amanda Perobelli/Reuters

By October, more than 27,000 Indigenous Brazilians had contracted COVID-19. An article in The Lancet criticised the government’s inaction and failure to provide indigenous tribes with adequate masks and medical supplies.

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Cacique Pedro poses outside his house in the Park of Indigenous Nations community in Manaus, Brazil, on May 10, 2020. Felipe Dana/AP

President Trump announced he’d contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of October, less than a week after he hosted a nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. A reception was held indoors.

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President Donald Trump and Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC, September 26, 2020. Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Coronavirus cases began to surge anew in the US in early October. To avoid crowds on Election Day, millions of Americans voted early or by mail.

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Dana Clark and her 18-month-old son, Mason, wait in line as early voting begins for the presidential election in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 16, 2020. Kathleen Flynn/Reuters

Despite mounting cases worldwide, many people continued to congregate for holiday festivities throughout the fall and winter, like this crowd in India.

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Hindu devotees perform rituals during the Chhat Puja festival on the banks of the Yamuna River in Prayagraj, India, November 21, 2020. Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

The Hasidic Jewish community in New York City continues to gather in groups for funerals and religious services. One indoor Hasidic wedding had thousands of guests.

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Hundreds of mourners gather to observe a funeral for Rabbi Chaim Mertz, a Hasidic leader whose death was reportedly tied to the coronavirus, in Brooklyn, New York, April 28, 2020. Peter Gerber via AP

As hospitals filled with patients in December, a survey found that 76% of healthcare workers reported exhaustion and burnout.

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A female soldier’s goggles are covered with vapour after handling bodies of coronavirus victims in Kathmandu, Nepal, November 11, 2020. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

By December 17, almost 20% of US hospitals with intensive-care units had reported that ICU beds were 95% full or more.

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Dr. Joseph Varon hugs a patient in the COVID-19 ICU during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Centre in Houston, Texas, November 26, 2020. Go Nakamura/Getty Images

On that same day, the US death toll topped 300,000, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

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Maria Ortiz reacts while kneeling beside the body of her partner Jose Holguin, who died at age 50, at International Funeral & Cremation Services in New York City, May 16, 2020. Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Hope came earlier this month, however, as nations began vaccinating their most vulnerable residents. England was the first Western nation to authorise a vaccine.

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Margaret Keenan, 90, is applauded by staff as she returns to her ward after becoming the first patient in the UK to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, at University Hospital, Coventry, England, December 8, 2020. Jacob King/AP

By mid-December, the US had authorised two coronavirus vaccines: one from a Pfizer-BioNTech collaboration, and the other from Moderna.