I have been having a discussion about when COVID-19 first hit the international news. I think it was around Christmas 2019, up to a couple of days after new year. This is based on my recollection of telling zombie apocalypse jokes to the people I was with then. Others hold that it was not in international news until much later, though there is no agreement as to when that is.

I was not somewhere with over the air TV, so I would have heard the news on a streaming news service, one of Al Jazeera, CNN or NPR. I have tried to find mention on their archived sites at the Wayback machine but failed to find any mention.

When was the first mention of the COVID-19 pandemic made in major international TV news?

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    This could well be difficult to pin down exactly because in the early stages it wasn't referred to as COVID-19 (or even Coronavirus).
    – Steve Bird
    Feb 2, 2022 at 13:05
  • WHO timeline Or Devex "On Dec. 31, 2019, Chinese authorities alerted the World Health Organization of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, with an unknown cause. What started as a mystery disease was first referred to as 2019-nCoV and then named COVID-19." NYtimes. If those don't answer, help us to understand what you're looking for?
    – MCW
    Feb 2, 2022 at 13:13
  • I am asking when there was a report of the disease in the international news. If for example there was a news report of the Chinese authorities alerted the WHO that would be an answer. It would of course not require the pathogen to be specified, just that there was a disease worth reporting. The NYT is paywalled.
    – User65535
    Feb 2, 2022 at 13:34
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    @NeMo Yes, I think it does. I guess I really should have gone to wikipedia rather than trying on archive.org.
    – User65535
    Feb 2, 2022 at 13:38
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    No problem. Wikipedia is so big these days that the article you need is sometimes quite hard to find. And not always accurate, though it tends to be quite good for this kind of thing.
    – Ne Mo
    Feb 2, 2022 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


The news broke in early January 2020. You might want to consider the BBC first top-news dedicated to the pandemic as the starting point for the international news coverage. Early minor news exist in international newspapers during early January. News from Wuhan are available as early as December 2019 but they don't talk about covid-19 yet nor a pandemic. The pandemic is said to have started on 12th December 2019.

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    The link you give is from 15/12/2021, not 2019. Feb 2, 2022 at 16:15
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    Note also that BBC archives are unreliable - they are doctoring them "for PC reasons", but if they modify them at all, they cannot be trusted anymore, ever.
    – sds
    Feb 2, 2022 at 16:38
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    Sorry, I was confused by replublished articles dates from the BBC. I've corrected the url. They republish articles many times so Google's algorithms think it's new content, to rank better.
    – James
    Feb 2, 2022 at 16:55
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    @sds - I'm not seeing anything in that article that claims they are doing the kind of things that would change a reported date in one of their articles. You might find editing or "bleeping" out of older content that is considered objectionable later to be reprehensible, and that's your right, but its not really relevant here.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 2, 2022 at 20:45
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    @sds - I disagree. The motivation for doing it has nothing to do with this case, and neither does the action performed. If you cannot supply instances of them changing rather than simply editing out or removing content, its simply irrelevant soapboxing here.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 2, 2022 at 23:19

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