A year ago today the world was plunged into a pandemic not seen since the Spanish flu over a century ago.
On November 17 last year our lives changed forever when the first person in the world is believed to have been infected with Covid-19 in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The virus has now claimed the lives of more than 1.2 million people worldwide, with cases surpassing 50 million in 190 countries.
Here we look at a year that changed Britain, and the world, for ever…
Patient zero is believed to have been infected with Covid-19 on November 17th, exactly a year ago today in Wuhan.
We still don’t know their identity but Chinese authorities believe it may have been a 55-year old man from Hubei province.
Chinese authorities originally reported the first case was on December 31 and initial reports put the source of the pandemic down to a live animal wet market – the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market – but the cause is unknown.
US intelligence reports said a “contagion was sweeping through China’s Wuhan region, changing the patterns of life and business and posing a threat to the population”.
In early December the virus is confirmed to have spread beyond the epicentre.
By the end of the month the Chinese government alert the World Health Authority saying multiple cases of pneumonia with an unknown cause had been detected in Wuhan.
The RAF begin bringing citizens home and flying them to Brize Norton. They are taken to a hospital on the Wirral and then quarantined for 14 days.
Early in the month Chinese scientists confirm a new strain of coronavirus but city health officials in Wuhan said there was no human to human transmission and the disease was no worse than SARS.
On January 11, a 61-year-old man with severe underlying health conditions became the first confirmed death from the new virus.
Chinese authorities admit human to human transmission is possible. Infections are reported in other areas of China, including Beijing and Shanghai.
South Korea confirms the first case outside China but on January 24, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the threat to the UK is ‘low.’
In China, public spaces are closed as a lockdown begins.
Just days later, the WHO declares an international public health emergency due to an ‘extraordinary event.’
Almost 100 cases are confirmed globally.
On January 31 the virus reaches the UK for the first time. Two members of the same family test positive.
The USA declares a public health emergency and closes its borders to people travelling from high-risk areas.
On February 10 the UK government declares coronavirus a “serious and imminent threat to public health”
Government scientists say it is unclear whether outbreaks can be contained by isolation and contact tracing.
One modelling group says large scale public gatherings should not be closed down and that shutting mass gatherings might drive people into smaller venues where contagion could be worse.
But by the end of the month, SAGE says restrictions could flatten the peak and reduce the number of cases by half.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty agrees – saying large gatherings may be cancelled and schools closed if the outbreak gets worse. But the government’s health minister Edward Argar says decisions will be taken nearer the time.
Boris Johnson appears at a press conference telling people he had shaken hands with people during a hospital visit. On the same day, SAGE warns against physical contact and advises pushing the message on hand-washing.
March 5 sees the first death from COVID-19 in the UK, a woman in her 70s, in Reading and the second, a man in his 80s in Milton Keynes was reported to have died later that day.
The ‘contain’ phase of the government’s action plan is launched, but on March 10 the Cheltenham Festival, with 150,000 people attending, goes ahead.
The next day, thousands of Spanish football fans are in Liverpool for the Athletico Madrid game. Government advisors still insist large events will not have an effect according to the modelling.
The same day, the World Health Organisation declares coronavirus a pandemic.
On March 16 models say capacity in the NHS will be overwhelmed unless social distancing is put in place – estimating 250,000 people will die if no action is taken.
The PM advises against unnecessary contact and says people should work from home where possible. Four days later restaurants and pubs close. Schools follow shortly afterwards.
In a televised address on March 23, Mr Johnson says: “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.”
On March 26 at 8pm, people from across the UK took part in applause in appreciation of health workers. This gesture was repeated on the next nine Thursdays, up to May 28.
In early April the government admits none of the 17.5 million tests it has bought will work. Matt Hancock still promises 100,000 tests will be carried out by the end of the month.
NHS England warns BAME people are higher risk from the virus.
Boris Johnson is taken into hospital after showing symptoms of the virus and spends a week there before being released on April 12.
On April 14, figures released by the Office for National Statistics indicate that coronavirus had been linked to one in five deaths during the week ending April 3.
By April 28, the number of people who had died with coronavirus in the UK passed 26,000, as official figures include deaths in the community, such as in care homes, for the first time.
Two days later Boris Johnson says the country is “past the peak of this disease”
In May the UK passes Italy to become the country in Europe with the highest death toll, at more than 32,000.
Leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ with Westminster over a change in messaging as ‘stay alert’ replaces ‘stay at home.’
On May 13, Mr Johnson says he wants people who are unable to work from home to go back to work. A loosening of restrictions sees people allowed outside for exercise and to meet one other person. Garden centres are allowed to open.
A £1,000 fine will be imposed on travellers who break the new self-isolation rules.
The Daily Mirror and Guardian reveal Dominic Cummings has breached lockdown rules by travelling to Barnard Castle.
On June 1, despite advice from teaching unions, the government allows reception, year one and year six pupils to return to school. In a further loosening of restrictions, groups of six people are allowed to meet outdoors.
Face masks are made mandatory on public transport as retail re-opens. Social bubbles are created allowing people to stay overnight in another household.
Later in the month pubs, cinemas and restaurants are allowed to re-open and social distancing is relaxed to one metre.
Leicester is placed into lockdown after a spike in cases.
In early July travel corridors open – 59 countries where returning travellers will not have to face quarantine.
NHS predictions say delay to treatment could cause 7,000 excess deaths, but warn the figure could rise as high as 35,000.
As part of a £30billion spending package, Rishi Sunak reduces VAT for the hospitality industry, brings in the furlough scheme and raises the stamp duty threshold.
Waterparks and outdoor pools reopen. Nail bars, salons and spas are allowed to open their doors as well.
On July 15, Mr Johnson agrees to an independent inquiry into how the pandemic has been handled.
Quarantine is reintroduced for people returning from Spain as the number of cases in the UK goes above 300,000.
In early August a major incident is declared in Greater Manchester, as spikes pop up across the region.
Meanwhile, ONS figures show the country is in the worst recession in its history and on August 3 the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme is launched.
A-level results see 40% of results downgraded and Mr Johnson U-turns on masks in schools, saying it is up to individual headteachers.
A fresh spike in cases sees the highest number since June, as an anti-lockdown rally goes ahead in Trafalgar Square
On September 1 human trials for the Oxford University vaccine get underway in America.
Mr Johnson refuses to meet bereaved families insisting he will only see them when ‘litgation’ against the government is finished.
On September 6 almost 3,000 cases are reported – the highest in months. Matt Hancock warns of a second peak as the R rate heads over 1.
The new contact tracing app is launched on the 24th and downloaded more than a million times, but developers admit problems.
The global death toll reaches a million on September 28, with the UK making up 42,000 of the grim number.
Regional lockdowns continue, with household mixing being made illegal in the north-east.
In early October the R rate rises as problems with the test and trace app continue.
A major study by researchers at Imperial College London finds that growth in cases of coronavirus may be slowing down in the UK.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam warns the UK is at the “tipping point” of its Covid-19 crisis.
In mid-October the tier system is introduced, with Liverpool being immediately put into tier 3 – the highest level.
Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham battles the government over a lack of support for the city. After a stand-off, the government provides a £60million package.
Wales begins a two-week lockdown labelled a ‘firebreak’ as Mr Johnson extends the furlough scheme in England.
On October 31 Mr Johnson confirms a second national lockdown.
Mass testing begins in Liverpool on November 2, with the army drafted in to help run testing centres.
On November 5 the second lockdown starts and just five days later Pfizer says their vaccine is testing at 90 percent effective against the virus.
The UK becomes the first country to pass 50,000 deaths in Europe on November 11. The day after, the UK announced its biggest daily rise of new cases, with 33,470 cases reported.
What it’s like in Wuhan now
George Goodwin, 45, science and humanities teacher, from Reno, Nevada had been living in Wuhan for a year and a half when the pandemic hit. Here he recalls that time and reveals what the city is like now…
“We first heard about it in early December. We thought it was just a new kind of flu, but when we started to see the number of people dying, we realised this was something else entirely.
“Rumours swirled on Chinese social media, and by the middle of January, there was talk of things being shut off — not just stores and restaurants, but mass transportation and the city as a whole.
“It was at that point I realised I needed to start getting supplies. What was I going to eat for the next couple of months? How long was this going to last? China was the first country hit so we had no blueprint.
“We endured the longest and strictest quarantine in China — 76 days in total. They closed all the exits in my compound and the surrounding spiked fence that was meant to keep people out was now being used to keep us in.
“The only way we could get food was from a makeshift market that had been allowed to set up by the gate. Supplies were basic, and if we wanted anything special, including meat, we had to order in advance.
“Living alone, I found myself reaching out to other people in the city. We were dreaming of better times, and I saw myself as the cheerleader of the group.
“I tried to find humour where I could and share it, which gave me a sense of purpose. We did a lot of dreaming about vacations during this time. What would we do if we had the time, the money and the freedom to go wherever we wanted?
“The worst day was when I started coughing. I took myself to hospital, convinced I had Covid, but was relieved to find out it was “just bronchitis”, a phrase I never thought I would utter.
“But even on that day, I was aware there were people with relatives dying in hospital, where they couldn’t see them, touch them or even say goodbye.
“When we finally came out the other side, my first concern was for my students, who, as I suspected, had become more addicted to their phones than ever.
“On a personal level, even going out to Pizza Hut felt really special. It was food I didn’t have to make myself, food I hadn’t eaten for a long time, and food with friends.
“There have been zero locally transmitted infections in Wuhan for months now. Of course, some businesses have shut, but other things seem to be growing again. It’s like the epidemic came in, took anything that was old and tired and started afresh.
“People are already taking over some of the closed down shops, new buildings are going up, the streets are being repaved and the beautiful three-kilometre light show down the Wuhan River is illuminated once more.
“But one thing is omni-present – the knowledge that Cobid started here and is still out there. It’s like living in a bubble. You don’t want to pop it for fear that you might not get back in.”
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