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Is COVID – 19 the First Pandemic in Human History?

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

As of March 29, 2020, the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic has resulted in 694,931 infection cases and 32,894 deaths, while affecting some 199 countries and territories globally, with Italy (10,023 deaths), Spain (7,074 deaths), China (3,305 deaths), Iran (2,763 deaths), France (2,314 deaths), USA (2,237 deaths) and UK (1,228 deaths) so far.

This is a unique global situation which has affected, almost, everyone living on this Earth in some way. The people are worried about the present worldwide circumstances and are uncertain about what to happen next. Besides other factors, the shocking scenes and news about Coronavirus cases and deaths in Italy and Spain make the people more frightened, depressed and concerned about the nature of the pandemic around the world. Here in the United Kingdom, COVID – 19 has negatively affected the UK residents psychologically, emotionally and financially more than their unpleasant memories of the Brexit deadlock period from 2016 to 2020.

Nevertheless, the current Coronavirus Pandemic is not the first instance of its nature in history, as the world has already seen and experienced such other occasions in the past, too. Evan Andrews has explained about various pandemics in the past on on August 22, 2018, titled ‘Take a look back at six of most infamous outbreaks of the disease once known as the “Great Mortality.”

One of such pandemics in human history is called ‘The Plague of Justinian’ being one of the first well-documented outbreaks of plague, originating in Africa, and, then, spreading to Europe, while reaching the Byzantine capital ‘Constantinople’ in 541 A.D., killing up to 10,000 persons on a daily basis after its arrival in the region, is believed to have taken the lives of as many as, at least, 25 million people, even though the exact death toll may have been more than this.

Another of such pandemics is known as the Black Death/the Plague or the Great Plague/the Great Bubonic Plague/the Pestilence/the Great Mortality or the Black Plague, as well, which claimed the lives of some 50 million people, according to Evan Andrews, but some other sources hold this pandemic responsible for killing around 75 to 200 million people in Europe and Asia, while climaxing in Europe from 1347 to 1351.

The Italian Plague of 1629 – 31 or The Great Plague of Milan was one of the outbreaks of bubonic plague, hitting central and northern Italy, killing about one million people or, approximately, 25% of the population.

But these were not the only plagues that devastated many families and killed a large number of people in the world, as we should also know about the Great Plague of London, lasting from 1665 to 1666, that took the lives of around 100,000 people, as estimated.

The Great Plague of Marseille is another historical pandemic, arrived in Marseille, France, in 1720, as Western Europe’s last main outbreak of medieval plague and vanished in 1722, but after taking the lives of roughly 100,000.

The Third Plague Pandemic is also worth noting, originally beginning in Yunnan (a province in Southwest China) in 1855, as a major bubonic plague pandemic that infected a huge number of people in all six inhabited continents of the world and lasted till 1950s or being deemed active until 1960, eventually, killed as many as some 15 million people, with millions of them in the British Indian colony alone.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or mailto:

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