It’s a year this week since Britain plunged into the most drastic restrictions on everyday life since the Second World War.
Lockdown and furlough were words that had barely entered our vocabulary.
For days, even weeks, Boris Johnson resisted shutting down the country even as closures were spreading in Europe.
He did not even attend his first COBRA meeting until March 2, after missing all those in the earlier part of 2020.
In some ways, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Now, of course, we know the virus was spreading much more quickly than the government thought, because so many people did not have symptoms.
It was large parts of society, not just the government, that were caught off-guard, and Boris Johnson insisted he was following the science.
But there’s now little doubt the science changed drastically, and the political decisions were not quick enough in catching up. Scientists have since said locking down earlier could have saved many thousands of lives.
Here we look at the devastating 23 days between the virus advancing into March in Britain and the PM eventually calling lockdown.
Sunday March 1, 2020
Coronavirus cases are detected in all four regions of the UK for the first time.
After spending much of the weekend at Chequers, where he and Carrie Symonds announce their engagement, Boris Johnson visits patients suffering from the virus at the high level isolation unit of London's Royal Free Hospital.
He does not wear a mask, even when sitting in a room full of clinicians, as it is not guidance at the time. However, he does pose for a picture washing his hands.
He says: “There now seems little doubt it will present a significant challenge for our country.
“But we are well prepared, and the Government and the NHS will stop at nothing to fight this virus.”
Monday March 2
Boris Johnson chairs his first COBRA meeting on Covid-19, after not attending the five previous in January and February.
Bizarrely, the meeting is announced the previous Friday, but the PM takes the weekend first.
At this point, the government is still imagining it will squash the peak rather than try to shut the virus down immediately. A Whitehall source 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 declared a "level four incident".
But the UK is deemed to still be at the "contain" stage with more forceful action – like school closures, working from home and cancelled sports matches – to only follow later.
Citizens are told they only need to self-isolate if ordered to by the NHS.
SAGE does warn the government to "advise against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given existing evidence about the importance of hand hygiene".
But at a No10 press conference that night, 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” could mean 1% of those infected by the virus die. If infection rates hit 80% that could mean as many as 530,000 deaths.
But the main public health advice continues to be that people should wash their hands while singing Happy Birthday twice.
England’s lockdown roadmap at-a-glance
March 8: Schools reopen, up to two people can meet in the park for a coffee or picnic, and hand-holding care home visits can resume with one named visitor after tests and PPE.
March 29: Outdoor socialising rules relaxed so up to six people or two households (whichever is larger) can meet outdoors. Golf, tennis, outdoor organised sport and lidos resume. Stay at home order ends but people still advised to stay local and overnight stays not allowed.
STEP 2 – April 12 at the earliest: Non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms, and outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants reopen. No curfew or ‘Scotch egg’ rule but punters must stay seated and obey general rules on gathering sizes. Review to report back on possibility of foreign holidays but they’re still banned at this point. Driving lessons resume, and wedding guests up from 6 to 15. Self-contained domestic holidays allowed with your own household or bubble only.
STEP 3 – May 17 at the earliest: Outdoor gatherings limit lifted from 6 people to 30. Indoor gatherings of up to 6 people or two households, and overnight stays allowed for the first time. Review to rule on whether you can hug friends and family but general social distancing remains. Foreign travel may be allowed. Indoor areas of pubs and restaurants reopen, as do hotels and B&Bs. Stadium events and theatre can resume at reduced capacity. Weddings limit lifted from 15 to 30, receptions allowed along with Bar Mitzvahs and other life events. Saunas and steam rooms reopen.
STEP 4 – June 21 at the earliest: Government hoping to remove all remaining legal restrictions – and reopen nightclubs and standing-only gigs – but will depend on review of wider social distancing rules and of vaccine and testing passports. Masks and hand-washing instructions may remain as may the two-metre rule in some situations or a testing regime. For a full guide click here.
Wednesday March 4
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warns there will be deaths as the number of cases in Britain leaps from 51 to 87 – including three passed on in the community.
The government admits the UK is on the verge of abandoning the “containment” strategy announced two days earlier, and moving to the “delay” phase.
UK universities cancel graduation ceremonies and Italy, at this point the worst hit country in Europe, announces it is closing all schools and universities until mid-March.
But amid talk of shutting the Commons, a No10 source says Parliament will "have" to stay open.
Boris Johnson expands statutory sick pay to the first day of isolation but critics say it's not enough.
Thursday March 5
The first known death of a coronavirus patient in the UK. The woman in her 70s, who also had underlying health conditions, was being treated at a hospital in Berkshire.
The total number of people infected with coronavirus in the UK jumps from 85 to 115. Attempts to isolate cases in specialist centres have been abandoned.
It emerges publicly that medical experts could soon warn people not to shake hands, hug or kiss and keep a distance from others – what we all now know as "social distancing". The Premier League bans handshakes between players and officials before matches.
But Boris Johnson shakes hands with This Morning hosts Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby before being interviewed.
Friday March 6
A second person, a man in his 80s, dies as UK cases jump by 49 to 164.
A scientist helping develop a vaccine calls Covid-19 the worst disease outbreak since Spanish flu, which killed millions in 1918.
The Foreign Office expands a quarantine warning to Brits returning from anywhere in Italy, but not all arrivals – only if they experience symptoms.
Saturday March 7
Despite speculation the UK remains in the "contain" phase of the pandemic, with civil servants working from their offices.
A London hospital reports shortages of protective kit, but the government insists it will ensure an "uninterrupted supply" to the NHS.
A Women’s Six Nations rugby match between Scotland and France, due to be played in Glasgow, is postponed after a Scottish player contracts the virus.
Sunday March 8
Tesco restricts sales of beans, pasta and hand sanitiser as panic-buying grows and a third patient in his 60s dies of Covid.
Meanwhile, in a crisis few will remember in comparison, Boris Johnson finally visits flood-hit Worcestershire but a local accuses him of a "stage-managed PR affair".
Monday March 9
Ministers meet with national sports bodies to decide if events should be held behind closed doors. But the next day the Cheltenham Festival is allowed to go ahead, followed by Liverpool v Madrid on Wednesday.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tells the 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 finally start telling anyone with a cough or fever to isolate automatically, but only "within the next 10 to 14 days". The order in fact comes three days later and full lockdown is announced within a fortnight.
Prof Whitty tells a packed No10 press conference 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" phase.
Tuesday March 10
The Cheltenham Festival begins, lasting four days with at least 60,000 racegoers who pack into the stands.
The government announces it will raise daily testing capacity from 1,500 to 10,000 within weeks. Two days later, however, community testing is abandoned.
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 front of 52,000 fans, including 3,000 from Madrid – despite the Spanish city's schools closing to contain the disease a day earlier.
Italy announces a nationwide lockdown amid horrific scenes of overwhelmed hospitals.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces £12bn of coronavirus cash in his Budget, which seems like a lot at the time but will be dwarfed by more than £300bn of spending.
Hours after health minister Nadine Dorries tests positive, Mr Sunak gives his Budget speech in a packed Commons chamber, where Tory MPs scramble to pat him on the back.
Thursday March 12
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces he will hold daily press conferences to update the public.
The UK finally moves into the "delay" phase, more than a week after the change was speculated.
The PM tells anyone with a continuous cough or fever to self-isolate – and warns "many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time." The No10 briefing is told 10,000 people are probably infected.
Robert Peston of ITV writes a blog suggesting the strategy of the UK government is to allow the UK population to acquire "herd immunity".
That evening, SAGE scientists gather to examine the modelling from experts at Imperial College London and other institutions.
The modelling suggests that if no action is taken to tackle the virus, some 510,000 people will die – and even with mitigations it would be 250,000.
The UK abandons widespread “community” testing and thorough contact tracing as it becomes clear the virus is spreading beyond control. It is only reintroduced months later once capacity is high enough – with care home residents not being routinely tested until mid-April.
Friday March 13
Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance makes his infamous "herd immunity" comments. While he has later said they were misinterpreted, they give some picture of the government's thinking at 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 football is suspended in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some European countries begin to ban public gatherings.
No10 announces mass gatherings such as sports events, gigs and conferences, will be banned but only from the following week. A Whitehall source suggests the move is to help free up emergency services rather than curb the virus spread.
Saturday March 14
Matt Hancock insists herd immunity is not the government's aim, 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 just let this fire burn… You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is."
Sunday March 15
Spain and France follow Italy in imposing major 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 abroad scramble to get home, 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 countries tilt towards lockdowns and Australia, New Zealand, America and Hong Kong all begin limiting flights to the UK.
Asked why there's no shutdown yet, one senior government figure tells the Mirror it's because the scientists haven't advised it. "If we suddenly obey what people are saying on Twitter , we've lost the argument on following the science," they say.
Monday March 16
Boris Johnson tells the public "now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others" as he introduces the first of his social distancing measures.
He tells people to start working from home if they can, to avoid "pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues" and to avoid all unnecessary travel.
But he's slammed for stopping short of ordering venues to close, and leaving schools open despite telling people to stay two metres apart.
As the death toll hits 53, he says even people with symptoms can still go out for exercise.
The PM says "by this coming weekend" the government will need to introduce 12 weeks of shielding for the vulnerable, but doesn't confirm the policy or start sending out letters for another six days.
Tuesday March 17
The Imperial study emerges publicly, and blows apart the government's strategy of "mitigating" the virus by finding it will still lead to 250,000 deaths.
It adds suppression is "the only viable strategy at the current time”, because the alternative would exceed the demand for hospital and intensive care beds eight times over.
All routine NHS treatments are axed for a month to free up the NHS to treat Covid patients. The mass discharge of elderly patients ramps up, many into care homes where they will later be said to have "seeded" the virus.
Six days after his £12bn Covid Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils a £330billion package of support for businesses and the economy – including a mortgage holiday and business loans.
But despite the order to stay away, pubs remain open and there is no furlough scheme. It takes almost a week to announce lockdown.
Wednesday March 18
SAGE meet and agree Britain is two to four weeks behind locked-down Italy. Advisors stop short of recommending full lockdown, but warn they do not have enough evidence and add: "If the interventions are required, it would be better to act early."
Boris Johnson yet again stops short of announcing a full lockdown, instead saying: "We will not hesitate to go further, and faster, in the days and weeks ahead."
The Prime Minister says schools and nurseries will close, but only two days later. Only vulnerable kids and those whose parents are key workers will 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." (It later transpires SAGE had held a meeting the day before with the title: "London lockdown").
The Mirror reports that wider plans for a lockdown have been drawn up, but ministers have not yet worked out how they would be enforced.
Boris Johnson again stops short of a full lockdown, instead saying "we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks" and "we can send coronavirus packing in this country" through voluntary social distancing, cancelled events and school closures.
One week after community 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 conference, journalist Lisa O'Carroll comments that reporters are sitting next to each other and the microphone is being passed round without being sanitised in between.
Friday March 20
Clubs, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, bookies and gyms are finally told to shut their doors from midnight, as children have their final day at school.
Shops are allowed to stay open at this point and there are no legal 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 22. 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 country needs you.”
Sunday March 22
Boris Johnson announces shielding for more than a million vulnerable Brits at a press conference where journalists are still asked to attend in person.
Weekend crowds fill parks, beaches, garden centres and supermarkets despite pleas to stay home amid the mixed messaging from government, as an 18-year-old becomes the youngest in England to die from the virus.
Boris Johnson threatens to shut parks and impose a curfew if people fail to follow social distancing, saying: “We’ll think about this very actively in the next 24 hours.”
Monday March 23
The PM announces unprecedented lockdown measures in a dramatic night-time TV address. People can only leave home for limited reasons and Britons overseas are told to return to the UK.
Brits are only allowed out once a day to exercise and go shopping. All “non-essential” shops are closed, with only food and hardware stores, chemists, petrol stations and newsagents allowed to remain open.
Gatherings of three or more people in public are banned, unless they are members of the same household.
On the day he announces lockdown, the total UK death toll since the pandemic began is 335. Within two weeks it will hit almost 1,000 per day, as deaths follow on from infections that spread in those crucial days of dithering.
One of those under threat of death from Covid in the coming weeks will be the Prime Minister himself.
One year on, the UK death toll is more than 126,000.
- COVID-19: Ban church, mosque worships for 40 days, Buhari’s campaign DG tells FG
- COVID-19 has clobbered 2020 budget into coma
- Horoscope Today, 1 March 2020: Check astrological prediction for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and other signs
- Horoscope Today, 9 March 2020: Check astrological prediction for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and other signs
- Horoscope Today, 2 March 2020: Check astrological prediction for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and other signs
- Protests and celebrations mark 2020 International Women's Day
- Horoscope Today, 10 March 2020: Check astrological prediction for Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and other signs
- Horoscope Today, 12 March 2020: Check predictions for Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer and others
- Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey Proclaims March 10 ‘Abortion Provider Appreciation Day’
- The best horror movies on Netflix right now (March 2020)
- Major League Soccer Suspends 2020 Season for 30 Days Due to Coronavirus Concerns
- Norwalk Coronavirus: 2020 St. Patrick's Day Parade Canceled
- 'It is a pandemic of disappointment': Couples share their heartbreak and anger as they're forced to cancel their weddings because of COVID-19 - with some given just a few DAYS' notice
- March 2020 Presidential Primary: What To Know In King County
- Seadown couple include March Hare Rally in wedding day celebrations
- The best cheap hard drive deals and prices for March 2020
- The best cheap Bluetooth speaker deals and sales for March 2020
- The best cheap smart home devices and gadget deals for March 2020
- The best Fitbit Versa prices and sales in March 2020
- Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray to visit Ayodhya on March 7 to mark 100 days in power, won't perform 'aarti' due to Coronavirus scare
Covid lockdown a year on: How March 2020 went from complacency to chaos, day by day have 3582 words, post on www.mirror.co.uk at March 20, 2021. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.