You are in [Events] [2020 Covid-19 Pandemic]

The early reports from China:

In December 2019 there were very early reports of a new Coronavirus in China. By late January there were reports that the virus could spread from person to person. Initially we knew of only three proved cases, but numbers grew. The epicentre of the outbread was Wuhan China - which was rapidly put into tight lockdown. We saw huge hospitals being built in just three weeks. The virus is believed to have originated in a food market selling wildlife.

The first cases in UK:

In January 2020, as the situation in Wuhan deteriorated, Heathrow airport began screening all arrivals from Wuhan. The UK’s first two patients test positive for Covid-19 – two Chinese nationals from the same family who were staying at a York hotel. Britons from Wuhan were placed in 14-day quarantine at a specialist hospital in the Wirral after being brought back on an evacuation plane.

In February there were many cases in Italy, and the first transmission of Covid-19 within the UK was confirmed. The UK government decided not to follow Italy and China in imposing restrictions on liberty and movement. Instead, the government advised a range of voluntary restrictions such as “social distancing” and, if any symptoms were exhibited, self-isolation and quarantine.

On 10 Feb, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also introduced strengthened powers for public health officials to quarantine people against their will, if necessary. It came following reports that one person quarantined at the Wirral was “threatening to abscond” from the isolation unit despite signing a contract agreeing to a 14-day quarantine period after returning from Wuhan. 

On 1 March, a further 13 cases were reported including new cases in Greater Manchester and Scotland; bringing the total to 36.

On 3 March the UK Government unveiled their Coronavirus Action Plan, which outlined what the UK had done and what it planned to do next.[58] Paul Cosford, a medical director at Public Health England, said widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom was "highly likely". 

On 5 March, the first death from COVID-19, a woman in her 70s, was reported in Reading, and the second, a man in his 80s in Milton Keynes.

On 12 March, the total of cases in the UK was reported to be 590. On the same day, the UK CMOs raised the risk to the UK from moderate to high. The government advised that anyone with a new continuous cough or a fever should self-isolate for seven days. Schools were asked to cancel trips abroad, and people over 70 and those with pre-existing medical conditions were advised to avoid cruises. Some supermarkets began to limit purchases of items in high demand.

Photo Gallery:

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Pavement markings reminding about "social distancing" rules.

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Signs to remind about "social distancing" rules.

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Plenty of signs to remind us how to behave in essential shops.

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Ramps and bollards to assist "social distancing" on pavements.

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Pavement markings reminding about "social distancing" rules.

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Plenty of signs to remind us how to behave in essential shops.

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Covid-19 Lateral Flow Test Centre, Football Club, Mar 2021.

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- Pavement markings reminding about "social distancing" rules.

- Ramps and bollards to assist "social distancing" on pavements.

- Signs to remind about "social distancing" rules.

- Plenty of signs to remind us how to behave in essential shops.

- Covid-19 Lateral Flow Test Centre, Football Club, Mar 2021.

UK lockdown:

On 15 Mar 2020 Matt Hancock warned that over-70s would be asked to “self-isolate”, by not leaving their homes, for an extended period “within weeks”.

On 16 Mar 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised everyone in the UK against “non-essential” travel and contact with others and suggested people should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and work from home if possible. At this stage, these were merely suggestions. He warned that other vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, people aged over 70 and those with underlying conditions, were urged to self-isolate. Many business expressed anger that the PM has not forced them to close – which could have offered them financial protection.

On 20 Mar 2020 Boris Johnson ordered all pubs, cafes, restaurants, bars and gyms to close. The chancellor Richi Sunak also announced that the taxpayer would meet 80 percent of the wages of employees temporarily sent home from firms hit by the crisis - a term called furloughing.

On 23 Mar 2020 in a televised speech to the nation, the prime minister told the public about the new rules that were to dominate their lives. People should stay at home except for limited reasons including once-daily exercise, food shopping and essential travel to work (if remote work was not possible) and providing care for others. All non-essential shops were told to shut, events including weddings were cancelled and gatherings of more than two people in public were prohibited. Those who did go outside were urged to keep two metres' distance from others. The slogan "Stay home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives" was introduced. The "stay at home" lockdown was initially for 3 weeks.

On 25 Mar 2020 sweeping emergency powers to deal with the coronavirus cleared the House of Lords without amendment on their way to becoming law. The Coronavirus Act 2020 was passed granting the government and other authorities “unprecedented” powers. It provided the health secretary the power to prohibit events and gatherings, for the purpose of preventing the transmission of coronavirus. Clarence House announced that Prince Charles had coronavirus and was showing "mild symptoms". 

The Department for Work and Pensions said almost half a million people had applied for Universal Credit in just over a week.

26 March: The number of UK coronavirus deaths increased by more than 100 in a day for the first time, rising to 578, while a total of 11,568 had tested positive for the virus. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the furlough scheme for the self-employed, under which the government would pay workers placed on leave due to the pandemic 80 per cent of their average earnings.

The first "Clap for our Carers" campaign starts, thanking frontline NHS workers for their service through a weekly round of applause on a Thursday evening.

The police’s new enforcement powers came into effect following Johnson’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown on 23 March. The legal basis for the police’s strengthened powers is the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. People were no longer allowed to leave their home without reasonable excuse. This was, in effect, a form of house arrest. It meant that we were only supposed to leave our homes for limited reasons. The four most common reasons are:

- Shopping for necessities like food and medicine
- Taking exercise – but only once a day
- For medical reasons, to provide care or help to vulnerable persons
- For essential work (list here), and non-essential work where working from home is not possible.

Also banned were public gatherings of more than two people – with those found in breach facing a fine of £30 in the first instance. There were even fewer permitted reasons to gather than there were to leave your house.

Empty supermarket shelvesPanic buying emtied many supermarket shelves 

On 27 Mar 2020 Boris Johnson announced that he had tested positive for Covid-19 but that he intended to continue his duties as prime minister while self-isolating. Health secretary Matt Hancock had also tested positive for the virus. On 3 Apr 2020 Downing Street announced that Boris Johnson's condition had deteriorated and had been admitted to St Thomas's Hospital. On 6 Apr he was moved to an intensive care unit after his Covid-19 condition worsens. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab was asked to deputise for Johnson “where necessary”, a spokesman added.

On 29 March, it was reported that the government would send a letter to 30 million households warning things would "get worse before they get better" and that tighter restrictions could be implemented if necessary. The letter would also be accompanied by a leaflet setting out the government's lockdown rules along with health information. Dr Jenny Harries, England's deputy chief medical officer, suggested it could be six months before life could return to "normal", because social distancing measures would have to be reduced "gradually".

On 2 April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, after his seven-day period of isolation, announced a "five pillar" plan for testing people for the virus, with the aim of conducting 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

On 3 April the Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel Centre in London opened with the capacity to hold up to 4,000 people. Other Nightingale Hospitals were opened across the UK in the next few weeks. Controversy later surrounded the project because of the low number of patients admitted, with some critics describing it as a "complete waste of money". With 708 deaths that day the total rose to 4,313.

On 10 April, the UK recorded another 980 deaths, taking the total to 8,958. Jonathan Van-Tam, England's deputy chief medical officer, told the UK Government's daily briefing the lockdown was "beginning to pay off" but the UK was still in a "dangerous situation", and although cases in London had started to drop they were still rising in Yorkshire and the North East. Matt Hancock told the briefing a "Herculean effort" was being made to ensure daily deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline workers, including the establishment of domestic manufacturing industry to produce the equipment. Fifteen drive-through testing centres had also been opened around the UK to test frontline workers.

On 12 Apr 2020 Johnson was discharged from hospital but did not immediately return to work. He instead spent time recovering in his Chequers residence. Hancock announced that the NHS was developing an app which would alert users whenever they had been in contact with someone who was believed to have contracted Covid-19. The Times newspaper hails the app as “holding the key” to lifting lockdown restrictions. It was hoped that it would make it easier for people to know who needed to be in quarantine and who did not. But a number of experts questioned how realistic these expectations were and what the implications would be for our privacy. On 27 Apr Boris Johnson returned to Downing Street to take charge of the UK’s response to the coronavirus outbreak once again.

The UK's coronavirus death toll passed the 10,000 mark, with government figures at this stage only accounting for hospital fatalities.

On 18 April, Unions representing doctors and nurses expressed concern at a change in government guidelines advising medics to reuse gowns or wear other kits if stocks run low. Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing later that day, Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Local Government said a further 400,000 gowns would be arriving from Turkey the following day. The number of recorded deaths rose by 888 to 15,464.[131] Care England, the UK's largest care homes representative body, estimated that as many as 7,500 care home residents may have died because of coronavirus, compared to the official figure of 1,400 released a few days earlier. Jenrick announced a further £1.6bn of support for local authorities, on top of £1.6bn that was given to them at the beginning of the outbreak. Jenrick also said parks and cemeteries must remain open.

On 23 April researchers at the University of Oxford began to test a potential Covid-19 vaccine on human volunteers.

On 29 April, the number of people who have 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.

On 30 April, Boris Johnson said the country was "past the peak of this disease".

On 5 May 2020 official figures showed that the number of people to die with coronavirus in the UK had reached 29,427, surpassing Italy to become the highest toll in Europe.

On 7 May 2020 the first major trial of the NHS’ Covid-19 contact-tracing app got underway in the Isle of Wight. Questions remain edaround its efficacy and the lawfulness of its interference in our right to privacy.

On 10 May 2020 PM Boris Johnson unveileds his new "stay alert" slogan, which replaced the "stay home" message. (Leaders of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland refused to change the slogan amid concerns that the new message was ambiguous.) It set out a three-step “conditional” plan to begin easing lockdown restrictions. In step one, Johnson said that those who could not work from home, such as construction workers, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” from Monday. He recommended that workers commute by car, foot or bike but added that public transport operators would be following “Covid-secure” standards and that guidance was being drafted for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure. He also encouraged the public to take “more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise” from Wednesday, while continuing to maintain physical distancing. In step two, the government hoped that by 1 June it might be able to begin the phased reopening of shops as well as partially reopening primary schools – starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6. In step three, Johnson hoped that “at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places,” would be able to reopen by July at the earliest. He stressed that these steps would be conditional on the public’s continued adherence to social distancing guidance and the prevention of any future resurgence of the outbreak. Johnson also confirmed that quarantine measures would be imposed on anyone coming into the country by air.

On 22 May quarantine measures were announced requiring those entering the UK from 8 June to share contact details and then self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to comply could result in a £1,000 fine in England.

On 25 May the prime minister's chief aide, Dominic Cummings, took the unusual step of giving a press conference to defend himself over allegations that he breached lockdown restrictions by travelling to Durham. Mr Johnson refused to dismiss his adviser, despite widespread public anger over the incident. Commentators continued to question Mr Cummings' version of events, including an Easter Sunday drive from his parents' property to Barnard Castle, which he claimed was to test his eyesight.

On 1 June children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 across England were allowed to return to school. However, the numbers that go back varied depending on classroom size. Groups of six people could meet up outdoors, as long as they followed social distancing guidance.

On 9 June education secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs that not all primary school students would return to the classroom before the summer, going against previous government hopes. Parents expressed concern about how their children would catch up academically.

On 10 June Prof Ferguson tells the Science and Technology Committee that the UK coronavirus death toll would be 50 per cent lower if lockdown had been introduced a week earlier. On the same day, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted in a report that Britain's economy would suffer the most of any country in the developed world.

On 13 June "Support bubbles" were introduced, allowing those in single adult households to stay overnight at another home.

On 15 June non-essential shops reopened in England, as did zoos, safari parks and places of worship for private prayer. Face masks had to be worn on public transport in England from this date.

17 June: The Premier League returns to action behind closed doors. Liverpool are later crowned champions of the top flight for the first time in 30 years.

18 June: The government decides to perform an embarrassing U-turn over its tracing app and to work with tech giants Apple and Google. The app is predicted to be ready some time in the autumn or winter, not mid-May as initially promised.

23 June: The prime minister announces in the last government daily coronavirus briefing that social distancing rules will be relaxed to a "one-metre plus" rule and spaces like pubs, cinemas and restaurants will reopen from 4 July.

26 June: As thousands of people flock to beaches during the heatwave, Mr Johnson warns of "serious spike" in infections if people are "taking liberties".

25 July: Gyms and indoor swimming pools open. However, as the numbers of Covid-19 cases in Spain rose rapidly, anyone arring at UK airports or sea ports had to self isolate for 14 days.

In Hungerford:

In the early stages of the lockdown, the town became almost a ghost town, with very few people appearing in the High Street.

A local volunteer, Geordie Taylor, responded to the crisis by establishing the Hungerford Self Isolation group - co-ordinating help and support for those needing to isolate. Volunteers delivered food and medical supplies, walked dogs and offered contact and support to many individuals and families.

Steve Mitchell, who is Health and Safety manager at Sulzer Mixpac in tealgate, arranged for his company to use their 3D printers to produce over 2,000 protective visors for use by the NHS and local care homes. 

Both were nominated as Community Champions by local MP Laura Farris. See "Steve and Geordie latest champions of Covid-19 crisis" - NWN, 23 Jul 2020.

September: the local case numbers continue to be shown as 0-2.

When shops and pubs were able to re-open (with appropriate restrictions on numbers and social distancing) nearly all the premises did re-open, although many had reduced opening hours.

A few businesses did close as the summer progressed into autumn, including Libby Blakey (3 & 3a Bridge Street) who re-located to Blanchard Collective in Froxfield; "Living Art" (16 Bridge Street); "Clouds" Vape Shop (9a High Street) and Antalya Traditional Turkish Barbers (109 High Street, Oct 2020).

See also: "Support group winds down", NWN 13 Aug 2020.

The second wave develops:

27 July: Whilst the first wave of cases of Covid-19 is still growing across the US, much of South America, India and South Africa, a second wave of Covid-19 cases is becoming established across many countries that had successfully controlled their first wave. This is especially true in Japan, Israel and Australia. There have been 16 million cases worldwide, with nearlty 650,000 deaths. The Prime Minister launched an anti-obesity program to try to reduce the risks of Covid-19 (and other illnesses) and to save the NHS £100 million a year.

31 July: Cases of Covid-19 starting to rise again in UK - increased restrictions applied to Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

3 August: To attempt to boost the catering industry, the Government intoduced its "Eat out to help out" scheme: 50% reduction (maximum £10 per person) for restaurant and pub food on Mondays- Wednesdays in August.

11 August: Cases exceed 20 million worldwide, with over 5 million in USA, and most European countries experiencing increasing numbers.

15 August: Travellers returning from France now required to self isolate for 14 days - many of the 450,000 Brits rush to beat the 4.00am deadline.

16 August: Huge problems with the Ofqual adjustments to A-level results - many students apparently inappropriately downgraded. Teachers, parents and grand-parents widely dissatisfied with the scheme which aimed to partly neutralise teachers optimistic assessment of some pupils.

15 August summary:

* The UK reported 7,353 new cases in the week to 21 August, up from 6,793 in the previous week
* The UK ordered travellers from Austria, Croatia and Trinidad and Tobago to quarantine for two weeks on arrival following a rise in new cases in these countries, but removed the requirement for arrivals from Portugal
* UK public sector net debt in July surpassed £2tn for the first time, according to the Office for National Statistics, equivalent to over 100% of GDP. The £20.2bn increase from June was lower than expected by the Office for Budget Responsibility, owing to stronger value-added tax revenue
* As of 30 June the number of furloughed employees in the UK stood at 6.8m, down from a peak of 8.9m on 8 May, according to the HMRC
* Some 35m diners took advantage of the UK government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme in its first two weeks

1 September: School pupils of all ages returned to their schools for the start of term.

7 September: An increase of 2,988 new cases yesterday - though only two deaths. Most new cases are amongst the younger age groups. Major social distancing failures, especially in the midlands and the north. Bolton in tight lockdown after 99 cases per 100,000 people.

9 September: The accelerating numbers of new cases has led the government to limit social gatherings in England to only 6 peope (previously 30 people outdoors) from 14 September. The limit of only two households meeting indoors continues.
The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine trial has been paused in its phase 3 (international volunteers receiving vaccine) because one patient in the UK has developed as unexplained illness as a possible side effect.

11 September: It is six months since the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus a wworld pandemic. Since then there have been 18 million cases worldwide, and 900,000 deaths.
In the UK the R number is now above 1 (1.0-1.2, with some regional variation). Most cases are currently in the 18-24 years age group. 3,539 new cases announced today.

19 September: The PM warns that the second wave is on its way. The R number in England is 1.1-1.4, with 4,322 new cases yesterday. 13.5 million people are in extra local restrictions, especially in the midland and the north.

22 September: Additional sweeping restrictions announced: all pubs and restaurants to close at 10pm; table service only; everyone to work from home if at all possible; Face masks compulsory for bar staff and non-seated customers, shop workers and waiters; limit on guests at weddings reduced from 30 to 15; plans to allow fans to return to sporting events paused; "Rule of six" now applies to indoor team sports; fines for not wearing masks or following rules increased to £200 for first offence.

24 September: Chancellor Rishi Sunach introduces his "Job Support Scheme" in an attempt to help employment through the next six months until March 2021. UK borrowing in August reached £35.9 billion, the total hitting £2.024 trillion, esceeding the size of the economy - the highest level of debt since the 1960s.

28 September: Worldwide there have now been 1 million deaths from Covid-19. A stream of additional lockdown measures are brought in for areas in the midlands, north-east and north-west. The varied specifics of these has caused unrest, and the blanket 10pm closin time for bars is very unpopular.

2 October: President Trump tests positive for coronavirus - and within 24 hours is admitted to hospital. This is only one month before the USA Presidential elections.

11 October: President Trump declares himself "immune" and "virus free". He resumes the Presidential election campaign.

12.October: UK in rapidly escalating pandemic - with over 14,000 new cases daily, 65 deaths daily, and as many people in hospitals with Covid-19 as there were in March. Large swathes of the north are already in tight restriction, and PM Boris Johnson introduces the three-tier system for managing lockdowns.

15 October: Cases in UK doubling every week, with >400 cases per 100,000 across much of the midlands and north country. Several areas moved to Tier-3 restrictions, but a major dispute between Andy Burnham (Mayor of Manchester) and Government  results in delay in further restrictions there.

20 October: No agreement between Andy Burnham and the PM, so Tier-3 imposed on Manchester. 

21 October: PM confirms that £60 million additional funds will be available to Manchester - (Andy Burnham had insisted on £65 million).

28 October: Cases are rising rapidly across Europe. 367 people died yesterday in the UK - the highest since may (total 43,365). Over 8 million people are in Tier-3 lockdown, mostly in the north. Press and social media are full of different views about the best way forward. Many press for a nationwide full lockdown - but this is hard tomjustify when figures in the south and west are much lower. 

29 October: With official positive tests of 20,000 per day, we learn that randmised planned tests reveal the virus is spreading to 100,000 people each day across England. France and Germany are experiencing huge numbers, and are entering bigger national lockdowns. 

The second lockdown - "Lockdown 2.0":

4 November 2020: As the number of cases increases across the whole country, not only in the north, the health service is coming under increasing pressure. Hospitals in Liverpool are said to be full to capacity. Boris Johnson broadcasts to the nation, and a second English-wide lockdown is debated in Parliament - and introduced on Thursday 5th November - to last until 2 December. It is not quite a severe as in March. We all have to stay at home except for a few reasons - work if you can't work from home, medical care, necessary shopping, exercise. We can meet up with only one other out of doors - no-one can visit indoors. Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants are all closed (except for take-away), non-essential shops are closed, but the list of essential things include dentists, opticians, hardware stores, large country gardens such as National Trust and RHS sites. They stay open.

6 November 2020: For the first time cases of Covid-19 show up on the interactice Covid map. Until now Hungerford has shown "white" (suppressed, under 1-2 cases). Today it is dark green - 51-100 per 100,000 people (so maybe 5-10 per 10,000).

7 November 2020: Denmark finds that Covid-19 has mutated when it infected the large mink farms in the country, and the mutation has re-infected humans. This throws a major problem with the 100 or so vaccines being produced. Flights from Denmark are cancelled. Anyone who does fly in (including pilots and cabin staff) have to isolate for 14 days. 17 million mink have been destroyed.

9 November 2020: The surge in cases in the US and Europe has taken global inflection rates to record levels and deaths close to the previous peak. But outside the West the picture is more favourable. East Asia – China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand – are posting exceptionally low case and death rates. Infections are declining in many emerging economies, including India, Brazil and South Africa.

17 November 2020: Stock markets jumped higher as the second Covid vaccine group announces a vaccine with 94.5% success rate. However, cases in the UK continue to surge despite the lockdown, and daily cases continue to be over 21,000, with daily hospital admissions at over 1,800, and a total of over 52,000 deaths.

26.11.2020: The proposed "rules" to be brought in on 2 December bring West Berkshire into "Tier-2", with no meeting indoors, but shops will be open, and restaurants (and pubs serving sybstantial meals) will open too. The Christmas rules (for 23-29 December) were announced yesterday - with up to three households able to meet together in a "bubble" - but the bubbled households could not vary during those days. The Oxford/Asto-Zenecha vaccine researchers announced that their vaccine appeared to be about 70% effective - and that the accidental administration of half-dose for the first injection and full dose for the second gave a 90% protection. It's also inexpensive, and can be stored in a normal fridge (not at -70!). The Covid map shows Hungerford is "white" again, having shown significant numbers of cases over the past few weeks.

The usual Christmas Lights switch-on could not take place this year, but a wonderful Hungerford Christmas Video was produced, which does more than compensate for not being able to gather in the market place. See the Hungerford Christmas Video.

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that the “economic emergency has only just begun” and that the public finances were “unsustainable” as he announced a temporary freeze on most public sector pay and a cut to overseas aid spending. Public borrowing would reach a post-war high of £394bn or 19% of GDP this year but that the cost of servicing this debt (because of historically low interest rates) would reach a post-war low.

2.12.2020: The second English lockdown - replaced today by return to the three-tier system, but with 98% of us in Tiers 2 and 3. Good news that the UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, paving the way for mass vaccination. Talk of a more normal life perhaps returning as soon as the spring of 2021.

4.12.2020: The total number of cases worldwide is thought to be over 65 million, with 1.5 milllion deaths. 

8.12.2020: The first (Pfizer) Covid-19 immunisations (outside trials) are administered.

17.12.2020: Cases soar worldwide - 73 million to date, with 1.6 million deaths. Cases in the UK are rising rapidly - 1.95 million to date, 35,300 new cases each day. 66,000 deaths to date, 532 each day. Many further areas added to Tier-3 restrictions - now 38 million in England alone. This includes all of Berkshire, where cases have been rising rapidly.

19.12.2020: The rapid increase in cases has now been traced to a new Covid-19 variant, with 23 mutations, including part of the spike protein. It is thought to be 70% more transmissible. Drastic introduction of new Tier-4 restrictions to the 38 million in London and the south-east (including Berkshire). Chirstmas "bubbles" restricted to one visiting person on Christmas Day alone. Major restrictions to travel introduced. Wales will close all non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality venues from 25 December until further notice. Northern Ireland is implementing a six-week lockdown from 26 December. Sweden is tightening restrictions on businesses and closing schools as concerns over hospital capacity rise. Italy, the Netherlands and Germany have imposed lockdowns over Christmas. Austria will enter its third lockdown after Christmas. Denmark is closing non-essential retail and schools until early January following a spike in new confirmed cases which are running well above UK levels.

20.12.2020: The port of Dover is closed to outgoing traffic, and much of Europe bans people from the UK. The Netherlands, Italy and Belgium also halted travel from the UK due to concerns over the new variant of the virus. Germany, Spain and Israel are expected to implement similar measures. They've given (first) immunisations to 350,000 people. (However, at this rate it will be 600 days to jab 22 million people, and even if they reach 500 people a day at 1,000 immunisation centres, it will apparently take just about a whole year to give two jabs to the whole population... if the jab still works).

23.12.2020: Chaos in Kent, with 5,000 lotties stacked up and gridlock in Dover, but agreement reached that vehicles can start to move if pdrivers have a negative Covid test (within the past 3 days). This is taking time to arrange. The new Covid variant is spreading rapidly, and huge areas of England to be put in Tier-4 from Boxing Day. A further new variant, with many more mutations, is spreading rapidly in South Africa. Flights from there are now blocked. Fears that schools may not be able to re-open in January. 39,237 new cases, 2,004 new admissions and 744 new deaths.

30.12.2020: Over 50,000 new cases and 981 deaths in past 24 hours. Further 2 million put into Tier 4 (three quarters of the country now in Tier-4). Return to school in January delayed for some secondary pupils. The NHS is under great strain in many areas. The Oxford/Astro-Zeneca vaccine is aproved for use in the UK, and importantly it does not need ultra cold storage. 530,000 doses should be available next week.

The third lockdown - "Lockdown 3":

4.1.2021: The third national lockdown: With 21,779 patients in hospital with Covid and nearly 15,000 admitted in the past week, the NHS is nearly overwhelmed in many parts of the country. The Prime Minister held a broadcast at 8.00pm to announce a national lockdown starting at midnight, with schools closed until at least the February half-term. Very very difficult times ahead. He is aiming to get all those at special risk and all those above 70 years immunised by the end of February. There are serious doubts that this can be achieved - requiring 2 million jabs per week. The new mutation is 50-70% more transmissible than the original, as is the new South African mutation, which may not be covered by the current immunisations available.

8.1.2021: 68,053 new cases and 1,325 deaths in the past 24 hours. Hospitals across the country in crisis. 1.5 million covid jabs given.

19.1.2021: The NHS has been in crisis over the past week or more - with one admission every 30 seconds, many hospitals full, staff exhausted and many away because of illness or self-isolation. Military now called in to help staff hospitals in the Midlands. 10% of UK (12% of England) have had Covid. 96,000 deaths so far. But, new cases are over the peak, with 37,535 daily cases, and 1,610 deaths (the highest daily total so far). 4 million people have had their first Covid jab. 

27.1.2021: More than 100,000 people have died from Covid in the UK; over 250,000 people have needed hospitalisation, there are around 38,000 people in hospital with Covid, and still around 1,600 people die each day. However, the numbers of new cases is definitely reducing now, and the vaccine program is progressing well.

3.2.2021: The news starts to improve - daily cases down to 16,840 (down 6% in a week), deaths reducing, cases in hospital reducing, and 9,646,715 first Covid jabs given. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has shown good protection against hospitalisation, death and onward spread, and antibodies are around 88% after 6 months of having Covid-19. The Russian Sputnik vaccine has been shown to have 91.6% efficacy, at least as good as the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines. However, there are increasing concerns regarding further mutations and their possible resistance to current vaccines.

15.2.2021: The numbers are settling well in England - 13,308 new cases (27% down on the previous week), 17,600 Covid patients in hospital in England. Over 15 million people have had their first jab, meeting its target of offering a vaccine to everyone in the four highest priority groups by mid-February. An expectation is growing that schools may re-open on 8 March, with other restrictions being relaxed from April.


The Roadmap reducing restrictions:

22.2.2021: Boris Johnson announced his "Roadmap" for reducing the pandemic restrictions, encouraged by the great success of the vaccination program:

Stage 1: 8 March: All schools and colleges will reopen. Two people from different households can meet outside for recreation, which can include "a coffee on a bench". One nominated person can visit care homes, but will need PPE, a lateral flow test and to "keep physical contact to a minimum". Weddings attended by up to six people can take place in any circumstances
29 March: People will be allowed to meet outside, either with one other household or within the "rule of six", including in private gardens. The stay at home rule will end but people should stay local as much as possible. Outdoor sport facilities will reopen, including golf courses and tennis and basketball courts. Formally organised outdoor sports can also restart.

Stage 2 (no earlier than 12 April): All shops allowed to open. Restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors, including alcohol. Gyms and spas can reopen for individuals and households. Hairdressers, beauty salons and other "close contact services" can reopen. UK domestic holidays away from home permitted, with self-contained accommodation able to reopen for use by members of the same household. Zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen. Libraries and community centres can reopen. Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place. 

Stage 3 (No earlier than 17 May): People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors. Six people or two households can meet indoors. Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can seat customers indoors. Up to 30 people can meet to celebrate weddings or other life events, like christenings. Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open. Indoor entertainment such as museums, theatres, cinemas and children's play areas can open. Performances and large events will be subject to limits though. For indoor events they can be at half capacity or 1,000 people, and outdoors they can be at half capacity or 4,000 people - whichever is lower. For large venues (at least 40,000 capacity) up to 10,000 will be allowed to attend. Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen. International leisure travel will resume no earlier than 17 May. Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can start up again. Small group meeting indoors.

Stage 4 (No earlier than 21 June): All legal limits on social contact will be removed. No legal limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, funerals and other life events. Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen


 8.3.2021: As planned, all schools re-opened. Covid deaths fell below 100 yesterday (Sunday) - for the first time since 9 Cotober. New cases were 5,177. The UK has now administered 22.2m first vaccine doses and 1.1m second doses. Researchers at PHE found that both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to be highly effective after one dose. They suggested both were over 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation after three to four weeks in the over-80s.

18.3.2021: Cases continue to fall, but now more slowly (5,758 each day); cases in hospital fall, around 4,000 now, and deaths are much reduced ( 141). Over 25 million have had their first Covid jab, and 1.7 million their second. However, there are known supplies issues (partly in India) reducing availability in April, so the under 50s will be deferred one month. It is still expected that all adults will be offered immunisation by the end of July. There is a fear of a further wave of Covid in the autumn or winter.

22.3.2021: For three days record numbers of people have been immunised against Covid - 844,284 yesterday! New cases are bottoming out (5,312) but deaths continue to fall (33).

23.3.2021: The Anniversary of the UK's original lockdown: 126,172 people have died (but only 17 yesterday); there have been 291,936 cases. just short of 28 million have received 1st dose immunisations.

29.3.2021: Step 1 relaxation: As planned, rules are relaxed to allow up to six people, or two households to meet in the garden. Outdoor sports allowed. The reduction in new Covid cases has started to rise slightly (around 5,000 daily) following the return to schools three weeks ago, but patients needing admission to hospital (372/day) and deaths (now 62/day) continue to fall. Over 30 million have received their 1st jab, and 3.5 million their 2nd one. Over 1.2 million Covid tests are being carried out each day.

4.4.2021: Easter Sunday. Nearly 650,000 jabs given 2 days ago - 31.4 million (60% of adults) have had their 1st jab, 5.2 million (10.3%) the second. The UK has vaccinated the vast majority of the highest priority groups accounting for 99% of mortality risk from COVID-19. 3,423 daily new cases and 10 deaths.

12.4.2021: Step 2 Relaxation: As planned, all shops allowed to open. Restaurants and pub gardens allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors, including alcohol. Gyms and spas can reopen for individuals and households. Hairdressers, beauty salons and other "close contact services" can reopen. UK domestic holidays away from home permitted, with self-contained accommodation able to reopen for use by members of the same household. Zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas can reopen. Libraries and community centres can reopen. Weddings attended by up to 15 people can take place. 

17.4.2021: There have been more than 140 million cases recorded worlwide, and over 3 million deaths. India, Brazil, Germany and Canada are experiencing rapid increases.

However, everything appears to be going according to plan in the UK, with the weather fine, pubs and restaurants open for outdoor service, shops open. People are starting to plan how to manage the return of mass events and indoor events. 

But... there are concerns over new variants appearing - a doubling in cases of the South African mutation in the UK in the last month (from 300 to 600), and 77 cases of a separate variant from India – which it is also feared may resist vaccines. Furthermore, these cases are "geographically well spread", meaning surge testing would not be used in an attempt to contain the mutation.

Officials have embarked on the largest "surge testing" programme to date amid concern that a number of the infections in London involve people who had already been vaccinated. Importation of cases of the South African variant has long been of concern because of its ability to escape vaccines. The outbreak in London is thought to have been triggered by an individual travelling from a country in Africa to the UK in February, with cases spreading to members of their household and then to a care home in Lambeth, which is understood to have suffered at least 23 infections. Six in 10 of the residents who became infected are understood to have received the Astra Zeneca jab, while one of the 13 staff members with the variant had been given the Pfizer jab.

The new variant from India has a double mutation (E484Q and L452R) in the spike protein that may make it more able to evade the body's immune responses.

1.5.2021: ... and two excellent pieces of news today:

  • Just 1% of hospital admissions have received a (single) jab at least three weeks before admission. Even one jab appears to give 99% protection against illness sever enough to require admission.
  • The current estimate (week to 24th April) of current Covid-19 infections (in England) shows 54,200 people with the virus (1 in 1,010 of population), down 40% in one week, the lowest incidence since 5th September.

34.2 million in the UK have had 1st jabs, 14.5 million have had 2nd jabs. 2,381 daily cases, 15 deaths.

14.5.2021: So many good markers - case numbers are down to levels not seen since last August 2020, few hospitalisations, and deaths around 2-11 each day. Around 200,000 1st vaccines and 450,000 2nd vaccines being given each day to everyone down to around age 38. The planned Step 3 relaxation is confirmed to happen as planned on Monday 17 May. However... India has been in the midst of a huge 3rd wave, overwhelming their health services, and that variant reached the UK a few weeks ago before flights were banned. There are pockets of the Indian variant B.1.617.2 in London, the north-west (Blackburn, Bolton) and Bedford, with cases doubling each week - currently 1,313. Intense surge testing is taking place, and efforts to increase immunisations into younger ages in those areas, but it is a "Variant of Concern" because it is not yet known if the vaccines give adequate protection.

17.5.2021: Step 3 relaxation: Six people (up to two households) can meet indoors,, so indoor dining available at many venues, many indoor entertainments open, up to 30 people at weddings, some overseas flights available again. The Indian variant remains a worry, but data shows that the Pfizer and AstraZenica jabs give good protection.

14.6.2021: Step 4 relaxation had been due to be announced today, but... The UK has administered 41.5m first vaccine doses and 29.8m second vaccine doses, up by 1.2m and 2.1m, respectively, over the last week. This translates to 104 doses per 100 people. Equivalent data for other countries: Israel (123), Chile (106), US (92), Germany (72), France (65)
 The UK recorded 50,017 COVID-19 cases in the seven days to 13 June, an increase of 49% on the previous week
 UK COVID-19 hospitalisations rose to 187 on 8 June, up from a low of 78 on 16 May
 Random testing performed by the ONS found that infection rates in England were increasing in the week ending 5 June. 1 in 560 people was estimated to have COVID-19. The trend elsewhere in the UK was uncertain
 Public Health England reported that the Delta variant now accounts for over 90% of cases in the UK and is estimated to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent. Rates of infection with the Delta variant are currently highest in 10-19-year-olds, closely followed by those in their 20s and 30s
 Government scientific advisor Professor Neil Ferguson warned that “There is a risk of a substantial third wave – we cannot be definitive about the scale of that, it could be substantially lower than the second wave, or it could be of the same order of magnitude.” He added, “Almost certainly I think deaths probably will be lower – the vaccines are having a highly protective effect, cases in hospital now are milder – but it still could be quite worrying.”
 Nearly 6m UK residents in areas with high levels of infection have been asked to minimise travel and to socialise outside as the government deploys surge testing in a bid to slow the spread of the Delta variant
However, as widely anticipated, Boris Johnson announce a postponement in the relaxation from 21 June to 19 July.

27.6.2021: After CCTV film revealed the Minister of Health Matt Hancock in a passionate kiss and embrace with Gina Coladangelo, whom he had appointed as non-executive Director of the Department of Health, despite them both being married with three children, and during the Covid restrictions preventing such indoor meetings, Matt Hancock resigns, and is replaced by Sajid Javid.

28.6.2021: Still 14,876 daily new cases (+58.7% in one week), and 11 deaths. Decisions soon to be taken regarding he promissed relaxation of all Covid restrictions on 19th July.

* The UK has administered 44.1m first vaccine doses and 32.2m second vaccine doses, up by 1.4m and 1.1m, respectively, over the last week
* This translates to 112 doses per 100 people. Equivalent data for other countries: Israel (124), Chile (117), US (96), Germany (85), China (81), France (75), India (23)
* The UK recorded 98,460 COVID-19 cases in the seven days to 26 June, an increase of 54% on the previous week
* UK COVID-19 hospitalisations rose to 227 on 22 June, up from a low of 78 on 16 May but similar to levels seen a week previously
* Random testing performed by the ONS found that infection rates in England, Scotland and Wales were increasing in the week ending 19 June. 153,200 people in the UK were estimated to have COVID-19, up from 118,800 the previous week
* German chancellor Angela Merkel called for all those travelling from the UK to the EU to quarantine on arrival, regardless of vaccine status, due to concerns over the Delta variant. Spain rejected this common approach
* The UK added Malta to its green list, allowing quarantine-free travel to the Mediterranean island. A number of other countries and territories were added to the ‘green watchlist’ allowing quarantine-free travel but signalling there was a risk this could change at short notice
* UK transport secretary said that people who have received both doses of the vaccine would be exempt from quarantine requirements “later in the summer”
* The Indian government warned that the ‘Delta Plus’ variant was potentially more infectious and contains mutations that may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. The variant has been detected in the UK and other European countries
* The WHO’s regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti warned that “The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. This is incredibly worrying. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet”
* Some 3.3% of schoolchildren in English schools were absent for reasons related to COVID-19 on 17 June, up from 1.2% a week previous
* The UK’s contact-tracing app is directing around 150,000 people a week to self-isolate
* Israel, one of the most highly vaccinated nations in the world, has reinstated the requirement to wear masks indoors following a rise in cases
* Researchers at Imperial College London estimate that over 2m people in the UK may have experienced “long COVID”

12.7.2021: As the wave of the Delta variant spreads around much of the globe, cases in the UK continue to rise, currently around 35,000 each day. Numbers in hospital are increasing as our daily deaths (around 25) - far fewer because of the success of the various vaccines. Major sporting events (Wimbledon and the Euro football events) have seen very large crowds, and Covid is spreading particularly fast in young men. We await Boris Johnson's announcement this afternoon about the planned easing of restrictions on 26th July.

The UK has administered 45.8m first vaccine doses and 34.5m second vaccine doses, up by 0.7m and 1.1m, respectively, over the last week. This translates to 118 doses per 100 people. Equivalent data for other countries: Israel (126), Chile (124), US (100), Germany (97), China (95), France (88), India (27).
The UK recorded 213,528 COVID-19 cases in the seven days to 26 June, an increase of 30% on the previous week
UK COVID-19 hospitalisations rose to 563 on 22 June, up from a low of 78 on 16 May
Random testing performed by the ONS found that infection rates in England, Scotland and Wales were increasing in the week ending 19 June. 401,200 people in the UK were estimated to have COVID-19, up from 211,00 the previous week
The number of confirmed deaths worldwide since the start of the pandemic passed 4m although the World Health Organisation believes this is an underestimate
The Delta variant is driving a surge in case rates in Europe. Infection rates in Spain have more than quadrupled in a fortnight. Daily new confirmed cases are up over 500% in a week in the Netherlands. The Dutch government reimposed restrictions in response.

13.7.2021: 36,660 new cases today, and 50 deaths. Boris Johnson is relaxing teh rules next Monday - but replacing many laws by a system of 'social resposibility' -  venue owners, club organisers and social pressure to 'do the right thing' will be key. If people are  prepared to continue using masks, and to social distance, then maybe the numbers will not overwhelm the NHS. The peak of this third wave is expected in late August. 

24.7.2021: But maybe the peak of the 3rd wave has been reached already, with 60,676 new cases on 15th July, and numbers falling each day since - now 36,389. Hospitalisations are still rising, and deaths are steady in the 60s each day. However, there is huge disruption around the country because of the self-isolation as a result of so many people being "pinged" by the Covid app, and obliged to isolate by Test and Trace. Train services, supermarkets and other distribution services are struggling because of shortage of drivers. In much of the country kerbside recycling collections have been temporarily withdrawn. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opened yesterday with no spectators in the 60,000 stadium. The UK is struggling to convince young adults to have Covid vaccine - only 43,000 had it yesterday, although overall, the UK has some of the highest percantages in the world - 87.9% of all adults have had their first dose, and 69.5% their second dose.

21.8.2021: As the UK has opened up and Covid restrictions are relaxed, restaurants, pubs, theatres, clubs, cruises, museums and other venues across the country have opened their doors in the hope and expectation of catching a summer boost in activity. Clubs (Probus, Rotary, luncheon clubs) have  restarted normal meetings. Locally most people continue to wear face coverings in shops, but the atmosphere is definitely more relaxed. Inevitably. numbers of positive test have risen - 37,314 yesterday (weekly total up 9.6% compared with previous week); daily deaths 114 (week's total up 10.4%); hospital admissions 858 (week's total up 8.1%). 822,777 tests carried out yesterday (down 1.1%). In Hungerford 11 people tested positive in week up to 15th August, a rate of 188 per 100,000, below the national average of about 290. It does seem that the UK's high rate of immunisations (87.4% have had first dose and 76.0% have had 2nd dose) is helping to dampen the anticipated huge rise in cases so far, but autumn and winter are coming, with children and university stutents returning soon, many predict a further wave before the end of 2021.

25.8.2021: Data has been published on the gradual waning of protection offered by Covid immunisations. AZ protection drops from 77% to 67% 4-5 months after second jab, and Pfizer from 88% to 74% over 5-6 months. In Hungerford the rate of positive tests was 239.4 per 100,000 in week to 15th August (against national average of 334 per 100,000 - up 13.5% per week). Deaths to 24 August 705 (up 8.8%); admissions 6,089 (up 9.1%). The schools and universities will soon be returning which will no doubt increase rates further.

19.10.2021: September saw many local groups, clubs, theatres, restaurants and pubs resuming near normal activity with minimal Covid precautions. The Covid data continued reassuring, but gradually through October the data have got worse. Very high levels have been found in children (of all age groups). The UK recorded 300,081 COVID-19 cases in the seven days to 17 October, an increase of 15.1% on the previous week.

The increase in UK cases in recent weeks has been followed by a rise in deaths and hospitalisations:
* Specifically, UK COVID-19 hospitalisations in the week to 12 October were 5,153, up 6.9% on the previous week
* The UK recorded 852 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in the week to 17 October, up 8.5% from the previous week

Booster jabs are being rolled out, although worryingly the uptake is currently only about 50%.

A new Delta variant is causing concern. Delta is the UK's dominant variant, but latest official data suggests 6% of Covid cases that have been genetically sequenced are of a new type. AY.4.2, which some are calling "Delta Plus", contains mutations that might give the virus survival advantages, making it marginally more infectious.

25.10.2021: The UK is going through a diffiult phase, with increasing Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

* The UK recorded 328,287 COVID-19 cases in the seven days to 24 October, an increase of 9.4% on the previous week
* This translates to an average of 695 new cases per 1m population each day. Equivalent data for other countries: US (219), Germany (172), France (77), Italy (52), China (0.02), Australia (85), Latvia (1,307), Georgia (1,115), Serbia (1,007) and Ireland (413)
* UK COVID-19 hospitalisations in the week to 19 October were 6,720, up 19.9% on the previous week
* The UK recorded 949 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in the week to 24 October, up 11.4% from the previous weease - with high and increasing Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths. 

In Hungerford on 19th October there were 67 cases reported, a rate of 1155 per 100,000, far higher than the national average of 482 per 100,000.

Most clubs and groups continue to meet (often with added encouragement to wear face coverings) whilst the Bridge Club has reverted to playing online.

Nov 2021: everything was settling reasonably well in the UK in early to mid November, with high immunisation levels protecting people against hospitalisations and deaths despite high numbers of cases. Then a new Covid variant - named omicron - developing in South Africa. This had about 50 mutations, including 30 on the spike proteins, and it was recognised as possibly highly contacious, and possibly excaping the immunisation protection. Rapidly air travel was restricted, masks again required, and putting Christmas plans as jeopardy.