One year of Covid-19: A timeline of the coronavirus pandemic

31 January 2021, 12:41 | Updated: 31 January 2021, 22:38

Medical team members from northwest China's Qinghai Province
Medical team members from northwest China's Qinghai Province. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

One year on from the UK recording its first cases of Covid-19, LBC takes a look back at some of the key moments in a timeline of the coronavirus pandemic.

Before 2020, ideas such as lockdowns, social distancing and R numbers were, for most people, the stuff of fiction or scientific theory.

But now, vaccines, variants and viruses dictate what we can do, where we can go and who we can see, as Britain continues its fight against Covid-19.

On 31 January 2020, the UK recorded its first domestic cases of coronavirus. A year later, that figure has nearly topped four million.

With Covid jabs being rolled out across the country, an end is seemingly in sight. However, the government and scientists have warned that we could have to learn to live with the virus.

Exactly one year on, LBC takes a look back at some of the key moments in a timeline of the pandemic.

Despatch from inside Wuhan coronavirus lockdown

January 2020

Bubbling away on the other side of the world - in the Chinese city of Wuhan - was a virus that, unbeknownst to most, was about to radically alter the course of the new decade.

Clusters of coronavirus had popped up in every province of mainland China by 29 January and just two days later the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

By then, the UK had already unknowingly experienced its first Covid-related death.

Peter Attwood of Chatham, Kent - who first showed symptoms on 15 December - died with the virus on 30 January despite not travelling to, or contracting it from, overseas. However, his death wasn't recorded as "with" Covid-19 until 3 September.

But on 31 January, Britain officially reported its first two confirmed cases of the virus in York.

University of York statement on student with coronavirus

February 2020

By 6 February, the UK confirmed its third case of Covid-19, although, in reality, the virus had already been spreading throughout the country as people continued about their day-to-day lives as normal.

It was not until the end of the month that the first Brit was confirmed to have died after contracting the disease.

A man in his 70s, who was on board the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship, passed away on the 28th after receiving treatment in hospital.

The following day, back in the UK, a man in Surrey became the official first person in the country to contract coronavirus without recently travelling abroad

British man from Diamond Princess cruise liner dies from coronavirus

March 2020

For many in western Europe, March will forever be remembered as the month of the first wave of lockdowns. With the virus gaining momentum across the continent, Spain, Italy and France all chose to shut down to suppress transmission.

In the UK, the first two Covid-related deaths were confirmed on 5 March - a woman in Reading and, later in the day, a man in Milton Keynes.

Despite cases rising, the Cheltenham festival went ahead between the 10th and 13th, while Liverpool hosted Atletico Madrid at Anfield in the Champions League on the 11th. Just two days later, the Premier League announced it was suspending the 2019/20 season.

Within days it became clear that nationwide restrictions were inevitable, and on the 23rd Boris Johnson announced the UK's first lockdown - to be enforceable in law by the 26th.

The prime minister's message was clear: "Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives."

By the 27th, that advice became all the more personal for ministers after the UK leader and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both tested positive for coronavirus.

Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on coronavirus

April 2020

Despite leading the government while in self-isolation, the prime minister's health soon deteriorated. On the evening of the 5 April, he was admitted to London's St Thomas' Hospital.

Amid growing concern over Mr Johnson's condition - following a press appearance by a clearly shaken Dominic Raab who, as foreign secretary, was deputising for the PM - it was announced on the 7th that he was being moved to an intensive care unit (ICU).

But by the 9th, with the nation closely monitoring the situation, Mr Johnson was cleared to leave the ICU and was said to be in "extremely good spirits". He finally left St Thomas' on the 12th to finish his battle with Covid-19 from the comfort of his Chequers residence.

During this time, World War Two veteran Captain Tom Moore, now a Sir, had begun walking 100 laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS.

By the 16th, Captain Sir Tom completed his 100th lap, in total raising more than £32 million for the health service, and bringing some much-needed joy and hope to the British public.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said he is confident Prime Minister Boris Johnson ’will pull through’.

May 2020

After weeks of living in lockdown, May offered the nation its first glimmer of freedom.

On the 13th, a limited number of restrictions were lifted, allowing garden centres, sports courts and recycling centres to reopen. House moves and viewings were also given the green light by the government.

However, the nation's mood turned sour at the end of the month following the publication on the 22nd of a joint investigation by the Mirror and the Guardian into a trip made by Boris Johnson's most senior aide, Dominic Cummings.

Many were outraged after ministers lined up behind Mr Cummings, with critics arguing that it was "one rule for them, and another rule for us". However, his supporters claimed they would have done the same in his situation in order to look after their families.

On the 24th, the Observer and Sunday Mirror published details of a second trip to Durham, forcing the political adviser into holding a rare press conference the next day in Downing Street's Rose Garden, during which he claimed to have made his trip to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Dominic Cummings: legal rules around lockdown 'did not cover his circumstances'

June 2020

As summer dawned, so too did greater freedom. Lockdown restrictions were lifted further in the UK, with outdoor sports amenities and non-food markets free to reopen on 1 June.

Prohibitions on staying at home shifted to bans on people staying overnight at another house, while gatherings outdoors of people from more than one household were given the go-ahead, albeit limited to six people.

On the 10th, the prime minister announced support bubbles would come into effect on the 13th in England, while retail shops, zoos and safaris welcomed people back two days later.

The Premier League returned to action on the 17th, 100 days after its suspension, with Liverpool crowned champions for the first time in 30 years on the 25th.

But four days later, the city of Leicester, home to 2016's winners, was plunged into the nation's first local lockdown following a surge in coronavirus cases.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces local lockdown in Leicester

July 2020

Life returned to as close to normal in July, with social distancing measures being relaxed on the 4th - reducing the two-metre rule to one metre - which was branded by some as Britain's very own 'Independence Day'.

Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers were free to reopen nearly four months after serving their last customers. Two households were allowed to meet up indoors - which did not have to be exclusive like support bubbles were - and weddings were allowed to go ahead with up to 30 guests.

Nail bars, spas, massage parlous and salons reopened on the 13th, with gyms, swimming pools and indoor sports facilities following up on the 25th.

However, rising coronavirus cases in the Midlands, North West and North East caused enough concern that Mr Johnson announced on the 31st - the hottest day of 2020 - that he would postpone the planned easing of further restrictions on 1 August.

Boris Johnson: Gyms should be able to reopen in a ‘couple of weeks’

August 2020

As the country overcame the disappointing news that there would not be a further relaxation of measures in August, an even more bitter pill was soon to be served to the nation's schoolchildren.

Gavin Williamson confirmed the government would use an algorithm to determine results for upcoming GCSE and A-Level exams. However, when A-Level results were published on the 13th, the education secretary faced a major backlash as many pupils ended with far worse grades than what they had been predicted.

On the 15th, Mr Williamson reiterated that results would not be changed, but just two days later he undertook a U-turn due to the ongoing anger from children and parents, issuing teacher-predicted grades instead.

To avoid a similar fiasco, GCSEs were also awarded based on teacher predictions on the 20th. Five days later, Sally Collier quit as head of Ofqual.

Student lays into government's "catastrophic failure" on A-levels

September 2020

As coronavirus cases continued to rise across the country in September, it became clear that the government and devolved administrations would need to introduce tighter restrictions.

On the 14th, the rule of six came into force, meaning gatherings above that number would be illegal. Four days later, the UK Government said it was considering a short period of tighter measures in England.

In brighter news, the English Football League (EFL) began piloting a scheme to trial the safe return of fans to matches, with up to 1,000 supporters attending eight games from the 19th.

However, later that week, a 10pm pub curfew came into force in England and Wales on the 24th, forcing punters out of bars and restaurants at a far earlier time than usual.

Pub bouncer describes the first night of 10pm curfew

October 2020

While the UK was experiencing its second wave of infections and deaths, across the pond, in the US, the outbreak never seemed to let up.

Following months of seemingly refusing to take the pandemic as seriously as other world leaders - and mostly choosing to ignore health measures - President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both tested positive for Covid on 2 October.

The US leader was taken to Walter Reed Medical Centre later that day amid confusion over when he contracted the virus, how he was doing, and what medication he was taking. By the 5th, Mr Trump was discharged to the astonishment of doctors, as he could still transmit the virus while preparing for the US election.

Back in the UK, Northern Ireland effectively entered a second four-week lockdown on the 14th, while the three-Tier system was introduced in England. One week later, Wales triggered a firebreak lockdown, to end on 9 November.

Donald Trump - "We're working hard to get me back to work"

November 2020

Despite introducing the Tier system halfway through October, the measures were unable to curb Covid infections and deaths.

Boris Johnson announced England would be put under nationwide lockdown restrictions for the second time from 5 November. It lasted four weeks, ending on 2 December, and forced pubs and restaurants to shut once again, whereas schools remained open.

By this point in the pandemic, different systems had emerged in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as the devolved administrations responded to outbreaks as they saw fit.

On the 30th, singer Rita Ora was forced to apologise after breaching lockdown rules to celebrate her 30th birthday at a London restaurant just days before restrictions were to be lifted.

PM insists four-week lockdown will be enough

December 2020

With Christmas just weeks away, Brits were given treated to two early presents on 2 December: the UK approving the Pfizer vaccine and lockdown being lifted, although it was replaced with the Tier system. Spectators were also allowed to return to sports but with limits per tier.

But after 11 long months of restrictions, deaths and a deeply scarred economy, light appeared at the end of the tunnel when, on the 8th, the first Brit - Margaret Keenan - was given the Covid-19 vaccine, followed by William Shakespeare.

However, the welcome news of jabs being rolled out was soon overshadowed by Mr Hancock announcing on the 14th that a new Covid variant had been detected in the UK, which could explain the rapid rise of infections in London and the South East.

Two days later, the capital was moved into Tier 3. But this was still not considered sufficient in limiting the spread of the virus. Therefore, on the 19th, Mr Johnson confirmed London, the South East and parts of East England would move into the newly-created Tier 4 the following day.

The decision meant the eagerly anticipated 'Christmas bubbles' plan would be completely scrapped for those areas and rolled back for the rest of the UK.

With Britain firmly in the grip of a third wave of cases and deaths, hospitals up and down the country quickly filled with Covid patients. Meanwhile, images spread online of people being treated in ambulances as they waited for beds to free up inside.

By the 30th, Tier 4 restrictions were extended to the Midlands, North East and parts of the North West and South West.

Grandmother, 90, first to receive Covid vaccine

January 2021

Despite the joy of leaving 2020 behind, the very real issues of the pandemic continued to rage on in 2021.

The government once again decided the Tier system was insufficient in suppressing transmission rates and so, on 4 January, the prime minister announced yet another, strict lockdown for England, to begin on the 6th. Wales and Scotland had been under similar Level Four restrictions since 20 and 26 December respectively, while Northern Ireland was also in another lockdown.

On the 5th, the UK recorded more than 60,000 cases, the most in a single day, and on the 8th, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan declared a "major incident" in the capital due to Covid being "out of control".

A week later, the UK announced it would be closing all travel corridors from the 18th, following the news of new Covid variants emerging in South Africa and Brazil.

Then, on 20 January, the UK recorded its highest ever daily death toll of 1,820.

At the time of writing, Britain's death toll stands at 106,158.

Sir Keir Starmer addresses the nation on third Covid lockdown

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