I’m writing this retrospectively till 23rd March, based on what i remember.
So in early Jan we started hearing stories about an epidemic of some new SARS-type disease in China. Early reports were confused, it affected only one city, China had clamped down on info, a doctor who tweeted about it was arrested etc. We really didn’t know. However by mid January cases had been reported in the US, Thailand and all over the far east.
Like most people i assumed it would be yet another bird-flu type scare, nothing too serious, it’d all be ok. Even by the end of the month most people in the UK were still going about their normal lives, unconcerned about some faraway place. My own Facebook timeline has no mention of it at all in Janury even though by then, there had been 170 deaths in China and tens of thousands of cases.