An empty Sydney Opera House forecourt due to Australia’s ban on international travel

25 January 2021 marks a year since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Australia. As part of a social history I am writing of the first year of the COVID crisis in Australia, I have been investigating how Australian press outlets first reported on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. As sociologists and media studies researchers have shown, the ways in which news reports ‘frame’ new health risks are important to publics’ understandings and feelings of personal risk, particularly in the early stages when few other information sources are available.

Major infectious disease outbreaks are highly newsworthy. In Australia…

Image: Author

As I’ve been working on my COVID-related research projects, I’ve put together a timeline of events relevant to the Australian context to help me remember what happened and when. Here’s the timeline, current as of 31 December 2020 (updated from my original post in August 2020).

31 December 2019

First cases of ‘atypical viral pneumonia of unknown cause’ reported by Wuhan officials

5 January 2020

WHO releases its first Disease Outbreak News report about these cases — pathogen confirmed as a ‘novel coronavirus’

11 January 2020

China reports first death

13 January 2020

Thailand reports first case outside China


The advent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has generated massive social and economic changes in people’s everyday lives, including their use of digital health services. Digital health technologies have rapidly expanded and new ways of monitoring health and providing healthcare have emerged that are customised in response to the pandemic.

As part of physical distancing measures, many countries have moved quickly to institute and dramatically expand telemedicine services so that people can contact healthcare providers online rather than attend surgeries or hospital waiting rooms. …

All social research, whether it is directly focusing on the pandemic or not, is now inevitably changed. We are now dealing with a COVID world and a post-COVID world lies in our future.

As an academic who had initial training in health sociology and medical anthropology and then went to complete a Master of Public Health and a doctorate in the sociology of public health awarded by a Faculty of Medicine, I have been studying the social aspects of health and medicine for my entire career.

Among many other health-related topics, I have conducted research on two major global health…

Deborah Lupton

SHARP Professor and leader of the Vitalities Lab, University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney

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