Introduction and purpose

The COVID-19 timeline traces an unfolding pandemic and the consequences of economic and/or political decisions. These include:

  • Opening up for business too soon, and without sufficient precautions, which allows the coronavirus to continue spreading;
  • Allowing pharmaceutical corporations to impose patent monopolies – and other intellectual property (IP) barriers – that limit access to life-saving coronavirus diagnostics, medicines and vaccines;
  • Facilitating vaccine nationalism, by letting high-income countries purchase more than their share of vaccine stock;
  • Relying on one or two countries to supply raw materials for medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and devices, instead of sourcing them from multiple local producers;
  • Cutting budgets for healthcare and privatizing the systems that deliver it;
  • Manipulating regulatory agencies;
  • Rebranding chronically underpaid people as ‘essential workers’ while treating them as sacrificial lambs;
  • The inability to communicate clearly and honestly with the public about the pandemic and ways to mitigate it.
  • Using public health measures such as lockdowns to violate human rights and further marginalise people.
  • Failure to support the TRIPS Waiver to allow access to COVID-19 tests, vaccines and medicines everywhere.

We can learn from our bad choices – and despite them, we now know how to prevent SARS-CoV-2 and more about how to treat COVID-19.

Now there are safe and effective vaccines that need to be brought to scale, and research on treatments continues. The world has a chance to build on this progress instead of reverting to a system that permits pharmaceutical corporations to favor profits over public health and public good. This timeline provides background for transformative activism.