Politics

Covid lockdown a year on: How March 2020 went from complacency to chaos, day by day

It’s a year this week since Britain plunged into essentially the most drastic restrictions on on a regular basis life because the Second World War.

Lockdown and furlough have been phrases that had barely entered our vocabulary.

For days, even weeks, Boris Johnson resisted shutting down the nation at the same time as closures have been spreading in Europe.

He didn’t even attend his first COBRA meeting till March 2, after lacking all these within the earlier a part of 2020.

Hindsight is a fantastic factor. Now, after all, we all know the virus was spreading rather more shortly than the federal government thought, as a result of so many individuals didn’t have signs.



Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Matt Hancock with No10 aides Lee Cain, Dominic Cummings and Jack Doyle on February 28 final year

It’s the entire of society, not simply the federal government, that have been caught off-guard – because the panic-buying in supermarkets confirmed. And Boris Johnson insisted he was following the science.

But there is not any doubt that science modified drastically, and the political choices weren’t all the time fast sufficient in catching up. Scientists have since stated locking down earlier may have saved many hundreds of lives.

Here we have a look at the devastating 23 days between the virus advancing into March in Britain and the PM finally calling lockdown.

Sunday March 1, 2020

Coronavirus instances are detected in all 4 areas of the UK for the primary time.

After spending a lot of the weekend at Chequers, the place he and Carrie Symonds announce their engagement, Boris Johnson visits sufferers struggling from the virus on the excessive stage isolation unit of London’s Royal Free Hospital.

He doesn’t put on a masks, even when sitting in a room stuffed with clinicians, as it isn’t steering on the time. However, he does pose for a image washing his arms.

He says: “There now seems little doubt it will present a significant challenge for our country.

“But we’re nicely ready, and the Government and the NHS will cease at nothing to struggle this virus.”



Boris Johnson at the Royal Free Hospital on March 1, where he boasted he shook hands with everybody
Boris Johnson on the Royal Free Hospital on March 1, the place he boasted he shook arms with all people

Monday March 2

Boris Johnson chairs his first COBRA meeting on Covid-19, after not attending the 5 earlier in January and February.

Bizarrely, the meeting is introduced the earlier Friday, however the PM takes the weekend first.

At this level, the federal government continues to be imagining it should squash the height moderately than strive to shut the virus down instantly. A Whitehall supply says: “You are talking about months rather than weeks before we reach the peak of this.”

Tuesday March 3

Boris Johnson launches his coronavirus “action plan”, and the virus is said a “level four incident”.

But the UK is deemed to nonetheless be on the “contain” stage with extra forceful motion – like faculty closures, working from house and cancelled sports activities matches – to solely observe later.

Citizens are advised they solely want to self-isolate if ordered to by the NHS.

SAGE does warn the federal government to “advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene”.


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But at a No10 press convention that night time, the Prime Minister says: “I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody, you will be pleased to know, and I continue to shake hands.”

The Government admits a “reasonable worst case scenario” may imply 1% of these contaminated by the virus die. If an infection charges hit 80% that would imply as many as 530,000 deaths.

But the principle public well being recommendation continues to be that folks ought to wash their arms whereas singing Happy Birthday twice.



March 8: Schools reopen, up to two individuals can meet within the park for a espresso or picnic, and hand-holding care house visits can resume with one named customer after checks and PPE.

March 29: Outdoor socialising guidelines relaxed so up to six individuals or two households (whichever is bigger) can meet open air. Golf, tennis, outside organised sport and lidos resume. Stay at house order ends however individuals nonetheless suggested to keep native and in a single day stays not allowed.

STEP 2 – April 12 on the earliest: Non-essential retailers, hairdressers, gyms, and outside areas of pubs and eating places reopen. No curfew or ‘Scotch egg’ rule however punters should keep seated and obey normal guidelines on gathering sizes. Review to report again on risk of international holidays however they’re nonetheless banned at this level. Driving classes resume, and marriage ceremony company up from 6 to 15. Self-contained home holidays allowed with your personal family or bubble solely.

STEP 3 – May 17 on the earliest: Outdoor gatherings restrict lifted from 6 individuals to 30. Indoor gatherings of up to 6 individuals or two households, and in a single day stays allowed for the primary time. Review to rule on whether or not you possibly can hug family and friends however normal social distancing stays. Foreign journey could also be allowed. Indoor areas of pubs and eating places reopen, as do motels and B&Bs. Stadium occasions and theatre can resume at diminished capability. Weddings restrict lifted from 15 to 30, receptions allowed together with Bar Mitzvahs and different life occasions. Saunas and steam rooms reopen.

STEP 4 – June 21 on the earliest: Government hoping to take away all remaining authorized restrictions – and reopen nightclubs and standing-only gigs – however will rely on assessment of wider social distancing guidelines and of vaccine and testing passports. Masks and hand-washing directions might stay as might the two-metre rule in some conditions or a testing regime. For a full information click on right here.

Wednesday March 4

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warns there can be deaths because the variety of instances in Britain leaps from 51 to 87 – together with three handed on locally.

The authorities admits the UK is on the verge of abandoning the “containment” technique introduced two days earlier, and transferring to the “delay” section.

UK universities cancel commencement ceremonies and Italy, at this level the worst hit nation in Europe, proclaims it’s closing all faculties and universities till mid-March.

But amid discuss of shutting the Commons, a No10 supply says Parliament will “have” to keep open.

Boris Johnson expands statutory sick pay to the primary day of isolation however critics say it’s not sufficient.

Thursday March 5

The first recognized demise of a coronavirus affected person within the UK. The lady in her 70s, who additionally had underlying well being circumstances, was being handled at a hospital in Berkshire.

The whole variety of individuals contaminated with coronavirus within the UK jumps from 85 to 115. Attempts to isolate instances in specialist centres have been deserted.

It emerges publicly that medical consultants may quickly warn individuals not to shake arms, hug or kiss and hold a distance from others – what all of us now know as “social distancing”. The Premier League bans handshakes between gamers and officers earlier than matches.

But Boris Johnson shakes arms with This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby earlier than being interviewed.



Boris Johnson shakes hands with This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby
Boris Johnson shakes arms with This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby

Friday March 6

A second particular person, a man in his 80s, dies as UK instances leap by 49 to 164.

A scientist serving to develop a vaccine calls Covid-19 the worst illness outbreak since Spanish flu, which killed tens of millions in 1918.

The Foreign Office expands a quarantine warning to Brits returning from anyplace in Italy, however not all arrivals – provided that they expertise signs.

Saturday March 7

Despite hypothesis the UK stays within the “contain” section of the pandemic, with civil servants working from their workplaces.

A London hospital stories shortages of protecting package, however the authorities insists it should guarantee an “uninterrupted supply” to the NHS.

A Women’s Six Nations rugby match between Scotland and France, due to be performed in Glasgow, is postponed after a Scottish participant contracts the virus.



Shopping in the early days of the pandemic became almost impossible
Shopping within the early days of the pandemic turned nearly unimaginable

Sunday March 8

Tesco restricts gross sales of beans, pasta and hand sanitiser as panic-buying grows and a third affected person in his 60s dies of Covid.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says he’s prepared to take “targeted measures” in Wednesday’s Budget to assist companies, however is not going to delay the Brexit cut-off of December 31.

Meanwhile, in a disaster few will keep in mind as compared, Boris Johnson lastly visits flood-hit Worcestershire however a native accuses him of a “stage-managed PR affair”.

Monday March 9

Ministers meet with nationwide sports activities our bodies to determine if occasions must be held behind closed doorways. But the following day the Cheltenham Festival is allowed to go forward, adopted by Liverpool v Madrid on Wednesday.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tells the general public: “There’s no reason for people either not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage.”

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty says the NHS will lastly begin telling anybody with a cough or fever to isolate robotically, however solely “within the next 10 to 14 days”. The order the truth is comes three days later and full lockdown is introduced inside a fortnight.

Prof Whitty tells a packed No10 press convention with no social distancing: “There is a risk if we go too early people will understandably get fatigued and it will be difficult to sustain this over time.”

Cases rise from 273 to 319 and the death toll reaches five. Social distancing measures are still not in force, as they will only happen when the government moves from the “delay” to the “mitigate” section.



A packed No10 press conference with no social distancing on March 9
A packed No10 press convention with no social distancing on March 9

Tuesday March 10

The Cheltenham Festival begins, lasting 4 days with not less than 60,000 racegoers who pack into the stands.

The authorities proclaims it should increase each day testing capability from 1,500 to 10,000 inside weeks. Two days later, nevertheless, neighborhood testing is deserted.



View of the winners' enclosure following the 2020 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival
View of the winners’ enclosure following the 2020 Ultima Handicap Chase on the Cheltenham Festival

Wednesday March 11

The World Health Organisation declares coronavirus a pandemic.

Meanwhile, Day 2 of Cheltenham is getting underway. And Liverpool FC host Atletico at Anfield in entrance of 52,000 followers, together with 3,000 from Madrid – regardless of the Spanish metropolis’s faculties closing to comprise the illness a day earlier.



Liverpool FC hosted Atletico at Anfield in front of 52,000 fans
Liverpool FC hosted Atletico at Anfield in entrance of 52,000 followers

Italy proclaims a nationwide lockdown amid horrific scenes of overwhelmed hospitals.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak proclaims £12bn of coronavirus money in his Budget, which looks like a lot on the time however can be dwarfed by greater than £300bn of spending.

Hours after well being minister Nadine Dorries checks constructive, Mr Sunak provides his Budget speech in a packed Commons chamber, the place Tory MPs scramble to pat him on the again.



Tory MPs scramble to pat Rishi Sunak on the back after his 2020 Budget
Tory MPs scramble to pat Rishi Sunak on the again after his 2020 Budget

Thursday March 12

Prime Minister Boris Johnson proclaims he’ll maintain each day press conferences to replace the general public.

The UK lastly strikes into the “delay” section, greater than a week after the change was speculated.

The PM tells anybody with a steady cough or fever to self-isolate – and warns “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.” The No10 briefing is advised 10,000 persons are most likely contaminated.

Robert Peston of ITV writes a weblog suggesting the technique of the UK authorities is to permit the UK inhabitants to purchase “herd immunity”.

That night, SAGE scientists collect to look at the modelling from consultants at Imperial College London and different establishments.

The modelling means that if no motion is taken to deal with the virus, some 510,000 individuals will die – and even with mitigations it will be 250,000.

The UK abandons widespread “community” testing and thorough contact tracing because it turns into clear the virus is spreading past management. It is simply reintroduced months later as soon as capability is excessive sufficient – with care house residents not being routinely examined till mid-April.



Patients on the the Spedali Civili hospital in Brescia, Italy, on 13 March 2020

Friday March 13

Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance makes his notorious “herd immunity” feedback. While he has later stated they have been misinterpreted, they provide some image of the federal government’s considering on the time.

He tells the BBC: “Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do.”

Top-level soccer is suspended in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some European international locations start to ban public gatherings.

No10 proclaims mass gatherings akin to sports activities occasions, gigs and conferences, can be banned however solely from the next week. A Whitehall supply suggests the transfer is to assist unlock emergency companies moderately than curb the virus unfold.

Saturday March 14

Matt Hancock insists herd immunity will not be the federal government’s purpose, writing: “That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy.”

It comes after criticism from WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who says: “Do not simply let this fireplace burn… You cannot struggle a virus if you do not know the place it’s.”



Boris Johnson chairs a meeting in the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street on March 14, 2020
Boris Johnson chairs a meeting within the Cabinet room at 10 Downing Street on March 14, 2020

Sunday March 15

Spain and France observe Italy in imposing main lockdown restrictions.

Matt Hancock tells the BBC: “The protection of the vulnerable and elderly by asking them to stay at home is in our action plan. But we do not want formally to say yet that people should do that… they can tire of it.”

Brits overseas scramble to get house, with one onlooker telling the Mirror: “People from Milan are just rolling through Gatwick without even a temperature check. I have to laugh or I might bawl.” Several international locations tilt in direction of lockdowns and Australia, New Zealand, America and Hong Kong all start limiting flights to the UK.

Asked why there’s no shutdown but, one senior authorities determine tells the Mirror it’s as a result of the scientists haven’t suggested it. “If we suddenly obey what people are saying on Twitter, we’ve lost the argument on following the science,” they are saying.



A traveller coming through Gatwick on March 20 last year
A traveller coming via Gatwick on March 20 final year

Monday March 16

Boris Johnson tells the general public “now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others” as he introduces the primary of his social distancing measures.

He tells individuals to begin working from house if they’ll, to keep away from “pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues” and to keep away from all pointless journey.

But he’s slammed for stopping in need of ordering venues to shut, and leaving faculties open regardless of telling individuals to keep two metres aside.

As the demise toll hits 53, he says even individuals with signs can nonetheless exit for train.

The PM says “by this coming weekend” the federal government will want to introduce 12 weeks of protecting for the weak, however doesn’t affirm the coverage or begin sending out letters for one more six days.

Tuesday March 17

The Imperial examine emerges publicly, and blows aside the federal government’s technique of “mitigating” the virus by discovering it should nonetheless lead to 250,000 deaths.

It provides suppression is “the one viable technique on the present time”, because the alternative would exceed the demand for hospital and intensive care beds eight times over.



The study modelled the various options - with this graph assuming the measures ended after 5 months, resulting in a second peak
The examine modelled the assorted choices – with this graph assuming the measures ended after 5 months, leading to a second peak

All routine NHS remedies are axed for a month to unlock the NHS to deal with Covid sufferers. The mass discharge of aged sufferers ramps up, many into care houses the place they are going to later be stated to have “seeded” the virus.

Six days after his £12bn Covid Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils a £330billion package deal of assist for companies and the economic system – together with a mortgage vacation and business loans.

But regardless of the order to keep away, pubs stay open and there’s no furlough scheme. It takes nearly a week to announce lockdown.

Wednesday March 18

SAGE meet and agree Britain is 2 to 4 weeks behind locked-down Italy. Advisors cease in need of recommending full lockdown, however say they warn they don’t have sufficient proof and add: “If the interventions are required, it would be better to act early.”

Boris Johnson stops in need of asserting a full lockdown, saying: “We will not hesitate to go further, and faster, in the days and weeks ahead.”

The Prime Minister says faculties and nurseries will shut, however solely two days later. Only weak children and people whose dad and mom are key employees can be allowed to attend.

Glastonbury, due to be headlined by Sir Paul McCartney, is cancelled.

Thursday March 19

No10 condemns “irresponsible” reporting of a “London lockdown”, saying: “There is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London. It’s not happening.” SAGE had held a meeting the day earlier than with the title: “London lockdown”.

The Mirror stories that wider plans for a lockdown have been drawn up, however ministers haven’t but labored out how they’d be enforced.

Boris Johnson once more stops in need of a full lockdown, as an alternative saying “we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks” and “we can send coronavirus packing in this country” via voluntary social distancing, cancelled occasions and college closures.

One week after neighborhood testing stopped, he boasts: “The answer is to remove the cloak of invisibility and to identify the virus, to be able to know which of us is carrying it.”

At his press convention, journalist Lisa O’Carroll feedback that reporters are sitting subsequent to one another and the microphone is being handed spherical with out being sanitised in between.



The Downing Street press conference on March 19
The Downing Street press convention on March 19

Friday March 20

Clubs, cafes, eating places, theatres, cinemas, bookies and gymnasiums are lastly advised to shut their doorways from midnight, as youngsters have their last day in school.

Shops are allowed to keep open at this level and there are not any authorized restrictions on social gatherings.

The Prime Minister begs of Brits: “You may be tempted to go out tonight and I say to you please don’t.”

But Downing Street is forced to clarify after Boris Johnson says he “hopes to get to see” his mum on Mother’s Day, March 23. No10 later insists he meant on Skype.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlines the furlough scheme, which will pay up to 80% of workers’ wages if they can’t work due to coronavirus. Universal Credit – but not legacy benefits – is raised by £20 a week from April.

Saturday March 21

The UK’s death toll hits 233 – exactly what Italy’s was two weeks earlier.

But with no legal restrictions in force, thousands of people gather to walk in spots like Snowdonia with scenes compared to a busy bank holiday.

Claims emerge that French President Emmanuel Macron called Boris Johnson and threatened to shut the border unless he did more to stem the outbreak.

Environment Secretary George Eustice insists there is plenty of food as he sets up a “war room” to address the effects of panic-buying.

John Lewis says it will close all 50 of its stores and the Nursing and Midwifery Council writes to more than 50,000 nurses who have retired or quit the profession telling them: “Your nation wants you.”



Crowds outside a Tesco superstore in Hull on March 22, when it opened early for NHS workers
Crowds exterior a Tesco superstore in Hull on March 22, when it opened early for NHS employees

Sunday March 22

Boris Johnson proclaims shielding for greater than a million weak Brits at a press convention the place journalists are nonetheless requested to attend in particular person.

Weekend crowds fill parks, seashores, backyard centres and supermarkets regardless of pleas to keep house, as an 18-year-old turns into the youngest in England to die from the virus.

Boris Johnson threatens to shut parks and impose a curfew if individuals fail to observe social distancing, saying: “We’ll think about this very actively in the next 24 hours.”



Boris Johnson at the No10 press conference on 22 March 2020
Boris Johnson on the No10 press convention on 22 March 2020

Monday March 23

The PM proclaims unprecedented lockdown measures in a dramatic night-time TV tackle. People can solely go away house for restricted causes and Britons abroad are advised to return to the UK.

Brits are solely allowed out as soon as a day to train and buy groceries. All “non-essential” retailers are closed, with solely meals and {hardware} shops, chemists, petrol stations and newsagents allowed to stay open.

Gatherings of three or extra individuals in public are banned, except they’re members of the identical family.

On the day he proclaims lockdown, the whole UK demise toll because the pandemic started is 335. Within two weeks it should hit nearly 1,000 per day.

One of these below risk of demise from Covid within the coming weeks would be the Prime Minister himself.

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