The novel COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, where the initial wave of intense community transmissions was cut short by interventions. In this paper recently published in Nature Communications, the authors, using multiple data sources, estimated the disease burden and clinical severity by age of COVID-19 in Wuhan from December 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020. The estimates accounted for sensitivity of the laboratory assays, prospective community screenings, and healthcare seeking behaviors. Rates of symptomatic cases, medical consultations, hospitalisations and deaths were estimated at 796 (95% CI: 703–977), 489 (472–509), 370 (358–384), and 36.2 (35.0–37.3) per 100,000 persons, respectively. The COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan had a higher burden than the 2009 influenza pandemic or seasonal influenza in terms of hospitalisation and mortality rates, and clinical severity was similar to that of the 1918 influenza pandemic. The authors concluded that this comparison puts the COVID-19 pandemic into context and could be helpful to guide intervention strategies and preparedness for the potential resurgence of COVID-19.