How Covid upended life as we knew it in a matter of weeks
Hanau, Germany
andReuters Photographers
Updated 8 Dec 2020
60 images
On Jan. 1, 2020, as the world welcomed a new decade, Chinese authorities in Wuhan shut down a seafood market in the central city of 11 million, suspecting that an outbreak of a new "viral pneumonia" affecting 27 people might be linked to the site.
Medical workers in protective suits attend to COVID-19 patients at the intensive care unit of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
Early lab tests in China pointed to a new coronavirus. By Jan. 20 it had spread to three countries.
For most people, it was a minor health scare unfolding half a world away.
Nearly a year later it has changed lives fundamentally. Almost everyone has been affected, be it through illness, losing loved ones or jobs, being confined at home and having to get used to a whole new way of working, relaxing and interacting.
The Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil.
Almost 1.5 million people have died globally from the COVID-19 disease related to the coronavirus, and some 63 million people have been infected.
After the initial "wave" of the pandemic was brought under some semblance of control in many countries, nations are now fighting second and third waves even greater than the first, forcing new restrictions on everyday life.
Multiple members of medical staff in protective suits are needed to move an 18-year-old COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy.
Among the most haunting images to emerge from the pandemic in 2020 are those of medics on the frontlines of the battle against the virus.
In Milan's San Raffaele hospital, seven intensive care unit staff attended to an 18-year-old patient suffering from COVID-19, pushing the bed into the ward and holding medical equipment and monitors.
Doctors and nurses like them swathed in protective gear - gowns, gloves, masks, and visors, some with their names or initials written on their uniforms - have become a familiar sight.
Health workers wearing protective face masks react during a tribute for their co-worker Esteban, a male nurse that died of the coronavirus disease outside the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes, Spain.
So, too, have images of medics collapsing from exhaustion or grief at losing one of their own to the disease.
By March and April many countries began to impose lockdowns and social distancing to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.
Lily Hendrickx, 83, a resident at Belgian nursing home "Le Jardin de Picardie" enjoys hugs and cuddles with Marie-Christine Desoer, the director of the residence, through a wall made with plastic sheets to protect against potential COVID-19 infection in Peruwelz, Belgium.
Structures to separate and protect people sprang up - from transparent screens at supermarket checkouts to the plastic sheet which allowed 83-year-old Lily Hendrickx, a resident at a Belgian nursing home, to hug Marie-Christine Desoer, the home's director.
A coyote stands by the roadside at Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point across from San Francisco, California, United States.
The effects on the natural world of the shutdown were sometimes astonishing. Birdsong could be heard like never before in towns and wild animals ventured into newly empty cities.
At the usually crowded Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point across from San Francisco, a coyote stood by the roadside.
Ballet dancer and performer Ashlee Montague of New York wears a gas mask while she dances in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, United States.
Even the streets of Manhattan were eerily empty.
Ballet dancer Ashlee Montague donned a gas mask and danced in the middle of Times Square, New York.
Catholic priest Jonathan Costa prays among photos of faithful, attached on the church's benches before a mass, which was live streamed at the Santuario Dom Bosco church in Brasilia, Brazil.
In Brazil's capital, Brasilia, Catholic priest Jonathan Costa prayed alone at the Santuario Dom Bosco church, among photographs of the faithful, attached to the pews.
Wearing masks to combat the spread of the virus became commonplace the world over.
Crowds wearing protective masks at Shinagawa station in Tokyo, Japan.
At Tokyo's Shinagawa train station, crowds of commuters wore face masks, as did prisoners crowded into a cell in El Salvador's Quezaltepeque jail.
Marzio Toniolo takes a picture of his two-year-old daughter Bianca painting his toenails as his wife Chiara Zuddas looks out from their balcony in San Fiorano, Italy.
In private homes, families learned to live together 24 hours a day and how to entertain and teach their children.
In San Fiorano in northern Italy, school teacher Marzio Toniolo, 35, took a picture of his two-year-old daughter Bianca painting his toenails bright red.
The pandemic hit some of the world's poorest people the hardest - exposing the inequalities in access to medical treatment and in government funds to compensate people who lost their livelihoods.
People stand in a queue to receive food aid at the Itireleng informal settlement, near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, South Africa.
In South Africa in May, at the Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, people waited in a queue that stretched as far as the eye could see to receive food aid.
As 2020 heads to its close, vaccines are on the horizon. There is hope that some aspects of life as we knew it will return.
1 / 48

Dogs wear masks at a main shopping area in downtown Shanghai, China.
More from
Kai Pfaffenbach
Subscribe to the week’s best stories
Editor’s choice
US saw summer of Black Lives Matter protests demanding change
Editor’s choice
Brazil women suffer in silence as COVID-19 sparks domestic terror
Duque De Caxias
Argentines celebrate 'eternal love' for Maradona with tattoos
Buenos Aires
More Stories
Editor’s choice
A Picture and its Story 2020: Part two
Editor’s choice
A Picture and its Story 2020: Part one
New York
Schools close and student pregnancies rise in lockdown Kenya
The thaw of the Third Pole: China's glaciers in retreat
Meet the Thai “Drag Race” star marching for democracy and equality
Editor’s choice
The stories behind the standout images from the U.S. election

'Danger was coming': lone protester who defied Thai police
Editor’s choice
Breaking taboos: Japan's tattoo fans bare their ink
From disease to bushfires, Australia's iconic koalas face bleak future
Jailed Philippine activist lays to rest her three-month-old baby
Editor’s choice
Losing my grandfather to dementia during the pandemic
San Fiorano
Climate change is drying the lifeblood of Navajo ranchers as their lands become desert
Back to Top
Follow UsLike UsFind Us Editor's Choice Interactive Behind the News Cultural Atlas Forces of Industry Living Planet Moment of History Perspective Shifting Society Tales of the Unexpected StoriesPhotographers Latest On a frozen pond far from the Olympics, meet China's ice hockey veterans Recommended Honduran migrant flees tear gas with her children Follow UsLike UsFind UsSubscribeiPad AppAboutFAQsContactRSSBack to reuters.com