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2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom
COVID-19 outbreak UK case counts.svg
Confirmed cases by country and NHS region in the United Kingdom[1][2]
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationUnited Kingdom
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseYork, North Yorkshire, England
Arrival date31 January 2020
(2 months and 3 days ago)
Confirmed cases34,116[3]
Recovered191 (as of 2 April)[4]
Deaths
2,921[nb 1][3]
Official website
'Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice' at www.gov.uk[nb 2]

The ongoing global pandemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), spread to the United Kingdom in January 2020.[5] Transmission within the UK was confirmed in February,[6] leading to an epidemic with a rapid increase in cases in March.[7] As of 1 April, there have been 29,474 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK,[nb 3][3] and 2,352 people with confirmed infection have died.[nb 1][3]

On 12 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus had caused a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, which had initially come to the attention of the WHO on 31 December 2019.[13] The UK subsequently developed a prototype specific laboratory test for the new disease.[14] The four UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) raised the UK risk level from low to moderate on 30 January, upon the WHO's announcement of the disease as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).[14] After cases appeared in the UK on 31 January a public health information campaign was launched to advise people how to lessen the risk of spreading the virus.[14] Further cases in early February prompted the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to introduce the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 statutory instrument.[13] Guidance on infection prevention and control, how to detect and diagnose COVID-19, and daily updates, including advice to travellers, have been published by the UK's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE).[13] In addition, the NHS set up COVID-19 drive-through screening centres at some hospitals.[15][16] The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, explained a four-pronged strategy to tackle the outbreak: contain, delay, research and mitigate.[17]

The earliest documented transmission within the UK appeared on 28 February 2020; all of the cases detected previously had been infected abroad.[6] By 1 March, cases had been detected in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.[13][18] Subsequently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the Coronavirus Action Plan,[13] and the government declared the outbreak a "level 4 incident".[19] On 11 March, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.[7] Other responses included some schools in England choosing to close.[20] Airlines announced a number of flight cancellations,[21] and some online retailers reported consumers placing unusually large orders.[22] On 12 March, the UK risk level was raised from moderate to high.[23] Four days later, following the outbreak in Italy,[24] whose health system shares similar values and organisation to the NHS,[25] and based on evidence including forecasting by epidemiologists at Imperial College London,[26] the government advised on further measures on social distancing and advised people in the UK against "non-essential" travel and contact with others, as well as suggesting people should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, and work from home if possible. Pregnant women, people over the age of 70, and those with certain health conditions were urged to consider the advice "particularly important", and were asked to self-isolate.[24]

On 18 March, it was announced that the UK would close all schools except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.[27] On 20 March, all restaurants, pubs, clubs and indoor sport and leisure facilities were ordered to close, though delivery and take-out chains were allowed to remain open.[28] On 23 March, the government announced that these measures were to be tightened further, with wide-ranging restrictions made on freedom of movement, enforceable in law,[29] resulting in the Coronavirus Act 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and other similar statutory instruments covering the other home nations.

Background

On 12 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, who had initially come to the attention of the WHO on 31 December 2019. This cluster was initially linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan City. However, some of those first cases with laboratory confirmed results had no link to the market, and the source of the epidemic is unknown.[30][31]

Unlike SARS of 2003, the case fatality ratio for COVID-19 [32][33] has been much lower, but the transmission has been significantly greater, with a significant total death toll.[34][32] COVID-19 typically appears with about seven days of flu-like symptoms followed by some people progressing to symptoms of a viral pneumonia requiring admission to hospital.[32] From 19 March COVID-19 was no longer classified as a "High consequence infectious disease".[33]

Timeline

COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases

Jan Jan Feb Feb Mar Mar Apr Apr Last 15 days Last 15 days

Date
Cases (% rise)
Deaths (% rise)
2020-01-31
2(n.a.)
2020-02-01
2
2020-02-02
2
2020-02-03
2
2020-02-04
2
2020-02-05
2
2020-02-06
3(50%)
2020-02-07
3
2020-02-08
3
2020-02-09
4(33%)
2020-02-10
8(100%)
2020-02-11
8
2020-02-12
8
2020-02-13
9(13%)
2020-02-14
9
2020-02-15
9
2020-02-16
9
2020-02-17
9
2020-02-18
9
2020-02-19
9
2020-02-20
9
2020-02-21
9
2020-02-22
9
2020-02-23
9
2020-02-24
13(44%)
2020-02-25
13
2020-02-26
13
2020-02-27
13
2020-02-28
19(46%)
2020-02-29
23(21%)
2020-03-01
35(52%)
2020-03-02
40(14%)
2020-03-03
51(28%)
2020-03-04
85(67%)
2020-03-05
114(34%) 1(n.a.)
2020-03-06
160(40%) 2(100%)
2020-03-07
206(29%) 2(=)
2020-03-08
271(32%) 3(50%)
2020-03-09
321(18%) 5(67%)
2020-03-10
373(16%) 6(20%)
2020-03-11
456(22%) 8(33%)
2020-03-12
590(29%) 8(=)
2020-03-13
797(35%) 10(25%)
2020-03-14
1,061(33%) 21(110%)
2020-03-15
1,391(31%) 35(67%)
2020-03-16
1,543(11%) 55(57%)
2020-03-17
1,950(26%) 71(29%)
2020-03-18
2,626(35%) 103(45%)
2020-03-19
3,269(24%) 144(40%)
2020-03-20
3,983(22%) 177(23%)
2020-03-21
5,018(27%) 233(32%)
2020-03-22
5,683(13%) 281(21%)
2020-03-23
6,650(17%) 335(19%)
2020-03-24
8,077(21%) 422(26%[i])
2020-03-25
9,529(18%) 578(37%)
2020-03-26
11,658(22%) 759(31%)
2020-03-27
14,543(25%) 1,019(34%)
2020-03-28
17,089(18%) 1,228(21%)
2020-03-29
19,522(14%) 1,408(15%)
2020-03-30
22,141(13%) 1,789(27%)
2020-03-31
25,150(14%) 2,352(31%)
2020-04-01
29,474(17%) 2,921(24%)
2020-04-02
33,718(14%)
Sources:
  • Based on confirmed cases reported daily by Public Health England. Figures do not include the cases from British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.[35]

Notes:

  1. ^ On 25 March PHE changed reporting of deaths to be correct up to 17:00 the previous day, while cases are reported up to 09:00 the same day. Deaths reported for 24 March only cover from 09:00 to 17:00 on Tuesday 24 March. Subsequent reporting is for 24-hour periods from 17:00 to 17:00[36].

Late January 2020 – First cases

On 22 January, following a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States the previous day, in a man returning to Washington from Wuhan, China, where there were 440 confirmed cases at the time, the DHSC and PHE raised the risk level from "very low" to "low". As a result, Heathrow Airport received additional clinical support and tightened surveillance of the three direct flights that it received from Wuhan every week; each were to be met by a Port Health team with Mandarin and Cantonese language support. In addition, all airports in the UK were to make written guidance available for unwell travellers.[37][38] Simultaneously, efforts to trace 2,000 people who had flown into the UK from Wuhan over the previous 14 days were made.[39]

On 31 January, two members of a family of Chinese nationals staying in a hotel in York, one of whom studied at the University of York, became the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK. Upon confirmation, they were transferred from Hull University Teaching Hospital to a specialist isolation facility, a designated High Consequence Infectious Diseases Unit in Newcastle upon Tyne.[5][40]

On the same day, an evacuation flight from Wuhan landed at RAF Brize Norton and the passengers, none of whom were showing symptoms, were taken to quarantine, in a staff residential block at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral.[41] There had previously been contention over whether the government should assist the repatriation of UK passport holders from the most affected areas in China, or restrict travel from affected regions altogether.[42][43] Some British nationals in Wuhan had been informed that they could be evacuated but any spouses or children with mainland Chinese passports could not.[44] This was later overturned, but the delay meant that some people missed the flight.[41]

February 2020 – Early spread

On 6 February, a third confirmed case, a man who had recently travelled to Singapore prior to visiting a ski resort in the Haute-Savoie, France, was reported in Brighton. He had been the source of infection to six of his relatives during a stay in France, before returning to the UK on 28 January.[45][46] Following confirmation of his result, the UK's CMOs expanded the number of countries where a history of previous travel associated with flu-like symptoms – such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing – in the previous 14 days would require self-isolation and calling NHS 111. These countries included China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.[47]

On 10 February, the total number of cases in the UK reached eight as four further cases were confirmed in people linked to the affected man from Brighton.[48][49] Globally, the virus had spread to 28 countries.[50] On the morning of 10 February, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, announced the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, to give public health professionals "strengthened powers" to keep affected people and those believed to be a possible risk of having the virus, in isolation.[50] That day, the Arrowe Park Hospital, Merseyside, and the Kents Hill Park hotel and conference centre, Milton Keynes became designated isolation units.[13][50] The following day, two of the eight confirmed cases in the UK were reported by BBC News to be general practitioners (GPs).[48] A ninth case was confirmed in London on 11 February.[51]

On 23 February, the DHSC confirmed a total of 13 cases in the UK as four new cases in passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess were detected. Two were transferred to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, one to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and one to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne.[52]

On 27 February, the total number of confirmed cases in the UK were reported as 16, including the first case in Northern Ireland – a woman who had travelled from the outbreak area in northern Italy, having also stopped in Dublin.[53][54]

On 28 February, the first case in Wales was confirmed in a person who had returned from Northern Italy, who was transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London.[55][56][57] The same day, two further cases were confirmed in England, one of whom was a man who was taken to Guy's and St Thomas' and who became the 20th case of COVID-19 in the UK and the first case who did not contract the disease from abroad. He was a resident in Surrey and registered at the Haslemere Health Centre, which had previously been closed for "deep cleaning".[6]

On 29 February, three further cases of the virus were confirmed bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 23, after 10,483 people had been tested.[13] The three cases were from Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire. Two of the three affected people had recently returned from Italy while the third had come back from Asia.[58] On the same day, Scottish CMO, Catherine Calderwood announced that surveillance would begin at some hospitals and 41 GP surgeries in Scotland.[59] Around 442,675 calls were made to the non-emergency line 111 in the last week of February.[60]

Early to Mid March 2020

Soap almost sold out, London, 12 March
Number of cases (blue) and number of deaths (red) on a logarithmic scale.

On 1 March, a further 13 cases were reported, adding Greater Manchester and Scotland to the list of areas affected and bringing the total to 36, three of which are believed to be contacts of the case in Surrey who had no history of travel abroad.[61][62]

On 2 March, four further people in England tested positive. All four had recently travelled from Italy; they are from Hertfordshire, Devon and Kent.[13] The total number of UK cases was reported as having reached 40, though this was revised to 39 after additional testing.[21] The following day, when the total number of confirmed cases in the UK stood at 51, the UK Government unveiled their Coronavirus Action Plan, which outlines what the UK has done already and what it plans to do next.[13]

On 4 March, the total number of confirmed cases increased to 85.[13] Local press announced that an affected person was being treated at the Royal Stoke University Hospital.[63] On the same day, a case was confirmed in Gibraltar in a person who had travelled from Northern Italy.[8] On 5 March, three further cases were announced by the CMO for Scotland Catherine Calderwood, located in the areas of Forth Valley, Grampian and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.[18] That day, the total number of confirmed cases in the UK were reported by officials as 115,[13] and a woman in her 70s with an existing medical condition, was reported to be the first fatality within the UK.[64] A further 48 cases were confirmed on 6 March,[65] with the total being over 200 the next day,[66] and adding a further 64 new cases on 8 March, the biggest increase in cases until that day.[67]

On 9 March, three cases were discovered in Dorset.[68]

Some supermarkets began to limit purchases of items in high demand. 12 March.

On 10 March, Evangelos Marinakis, owner of football clubs Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos, announced on his Instagram feed that he had been infected with the virus.[69] It was announced the same day that mental health minister Nadine Dorries MP had tested positive for the virus and was self isolating.[70][71] Nine more cases were also discovered in Wales bringing the total to 15.[72]

On 11 March, 83 more cases were discovered in the UK bringing the total to 456. It was announced later that day that four new cases in Wales had been discovered, bringing the total to 19.[73] On the same day, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic,[7] and it was discussed in the UK government's annual budget.[71]

On 12 March, the first confirmed case was found in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, where previously a man was isolated, raising the number of cases in South Yorkshire to 12. Later that day 6 new cases were discovered in Wales, bringing the total to 25. Meanwhile, the total of cases in the UK was reported to be 590.[13] On the same day, the UK CMOs raised the risk to the UK from moderate to high.[23] 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.[74][75]

Shopping in rubber gloves and a face mask, London, 15 March 2020

On 13 March, the number of confirmed cases rose by 208 to 798 confirmed cases,[76] with the first death from Coronavirus being reported in Scotland.[77] Many sporting fixtures including the London Marathon,[78] the Six Nations Wales vs Scotland fixture,[79] and all Premier League and EFL football games[80] were postponed and the 2020 United Kingdom local elections were postponed for a year.[81] Similarly, the Country to Country music festival due to take place between 13–15 March at London's O2 Arena was also postponed.[82] The UK Government restricted the export of three drugs being administered to COVID-19 patients in clinical trials in China: Kaletra, Chloroquine Phosphate, and Hydroxychloroquine [83]

On 14 March, the number of confirmed cases rose to 1,140 and the total number of people who had died in the UK had increased to 21.[84]

On 15 March, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock announced that everyone in Britain over the age of 70 would be told to self-isolate "within the coming weeks".[85] That day, the number of cases rose to 1,372 and the number of deaths increased to 35.[86]

On 16 March, the UK death toll rose to 55, with the number of cases of the illness passing 1,500.[24] The deaths included the first to be reported in Wales.[87] Also on 16 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised everyone in the UK against "non-essential" travel and contact with others, as well as suggesting people should avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, and work from home if possible. Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions were urged to consider the advice "particularly important", and would be asked to self-isolate within days.[24] On the same day, the second Member of Parliament was diagnosed with the virus. The Labour MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne tested positive after a period of self-isolation.[88][89][90][91]

Supermarkets introduced early shopping hours for the elderly and vulnerable

On 17 March, NHS England announced that all non-urgent operations in England would be postponed from 15 April to free up 30,000 beds.[92] Also on 17 March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that £330bn would be made available in loan guarantees for businesses affected by the pandemic.[93][94] On that day the UK death toll rose to 71, while the number of confirmed cases increased to 1,950.[95][96]

On 17 March, the government provided a £3.2million emergency support package to help rough sleepers into accommodation.[97][98] With complex physical and mental health needs, in general, homeless people are at a significant risk of catching the virus;[97] as such it was argued that this fund was not satisfactory.[97]

On 18 March, Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle announced that he had tested positive for with the virus, becoming the third MP to be diagnosed with the disease.[99]

On 19 March, the first death was confirmed in Northern Ireland.[100] The Ministry of Defence also announced the formation of the COVID Support Force, enabling the military to support public services and civilian authorities in tackling the outbreak.[101] Two military operations were also announced; Operation Rescript, which focuses on the outbreak in the United Kingdom, and Operation Broadshare, which focuses on British military activities overseas.[102]

Next closed its 700 stores on 23 March, having previously traded with warning notices about the virus

Confirmed cases in Sheffield rose to 36 by 20 March, the highest for a UK city outside of London at that point.[103]

On 20 March, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency announced that all pending practical and driving theory tests were to be postponed, for at least 3 months in the case of practical tests, and up to and including 20 April for theory tests. All candidates were to receive notification of when their tests were rescheduled.[104][105]

On 22 March, the UK death toll reached 281, including what was reported to be the virus's youngest British victim so far, an eighteen-year-old with underlying health problems.[106]

On 23 March, Next was the latest retailer to announce that it was temporarily closing its 700 stores due to the pandemic. It predicted a £1bn loss in revenue due to the virus.[107][108] On the same day, Downing Street confirmed Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is the "designated survivor" to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he becomes "incapacitated" due to COVID-19. The clarification came after the issue was raised by MP Peter Bone.[109]

Late March 2020

On the evening of 23 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a television broadcast that measures to mitigate the virus were to be tightened further in order to protect the NHS, with wide-ranging restrictions made on freedom of movement, enforceable in law,[29] for a planned "lockdown" period intended to last for at least three weeks.[110] The government directed people to stay at home throughout this period except for essential purchases, essential work travel (if remote work is not possible), medical needs, one exercise per-day (alone or with members of their household), and providing care for others.[111] Many other non-essential activities, including all public gatherings and social events except funerals, are prohibited, with many categories of retail businesses ordered to be closed.[29][112]

The Scottish Parliament closed on 24 March, with plans to reconvene on 1 April to discuss emergency legislation.[113] The UK Parliament closed on the evening of 25 March.[114]

On 24 March, it was announced that NHS England would establish a temporary critical care hospital, NHS Nightingale Hospital London, in the Excel London conference centre.[115] Also on 24 March, it was reported that NHS Wales were looking at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff for a similar purpose.[116] On 25 March, it was confirmed that NHS Scotland had identified Glasgow's SEC Centre exhibition and conference facility as a potential site for a similar hospital in Scotland.[117] On 26 March it was reported that the Northern Ireland health service was also looking for potential sites to use for temporary hospitals.[118] On 27 March, NHS England announced that they would be establishing more NHS Nightingale Hospitals in major conference centres to help to deal with the large number of cases expected. The London hospital is due to be opened in early April.[119]

According to official data released on 24 March, there had been 87 new coronavirus deaths in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 422.[120]

On 25 March, British diplomat Steven Dick, deputy ambassador to Hungary, died in Budapest after contracting the virus.[121] On the same day, it was announced the police would be given the power to use "reasonable force" to enforce the regulations.[122] Doctors Adil El Tayar (consultant surgeon; cousin of BBC journalist and news presenter Zeinab Badawi)[123] and Habib Zaidi (GP)[124] became the first working NHS doctors to die from COVID-19.[125]

On 26 March, the number of UK coronavirus deaths jumped 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.[126] At 8pm that evening, people from across the UK took part in a national applause in appreciation of health workers.[127]. This applause has since been repeated on subsequent weeks.[128]

Electronic display sign normally used for traffic management displays COVID19-related advices on an almost deserted Chichester Street in Belfast City Centre, 24 March.

On 27 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both announced that they had tested positive for the virus.[129][130] On the same day, Labour MP Angela Rayner, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education, confirmed she had been suffering symptoms and was self-isolating following medical advice.[131] Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty also reported suffering from symptoms and would be self-isolating, while continuing to advise the UK government.[132] That day also saw the largest increase in the number of deaths, with the figure rising by 181 from the previous day, bringing the total to 759, while 14,579 cases had been confirmed by that point.[133] On the same day, the Royal Mint announced that it was manufacturing medical visors for medical staff working during the pandemic.[134][135] The National Police Chiefs' Council said police had issued their first fines for people breaking lockdown rules. The fixed penalty notices are £60 but will be reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.[136]

On 28 March, the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack announced that he was self-isolating after experiencing coronavirus symptoms.[137] A further 260 deaths also took the number of fatalities past 1,000, with a total of 1,019 deaths having occurred so far, and 17,089 people having tested positive.[138] At 11pm that evening, new regulations came into force in Northern Ireland giving authorities there the power to force businesses to close, and impose fines on them if they refused, as well as on people leaving their homes without a "reasonable excuse". The measures, introduced by the Northern Ireland Executive, brought Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK[139][140] Dr Amged El-Hawrani (ENT consultant) became the third NHS doctor to die that week from a COVID-19 infection.[125]

Social distancing while queueing to enter a British supermarket 30 March 2020

On 29 March it was reported that the government would send a letter to 30 million households warning that 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.[141] In a subsequent appearance on that day's edition of the BBC's Sunday morning politics programme The Andrew Marr Show, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that the UK was facing a "significant period" of strict measures to deal with the outbreak, and that it was "vitally important" to follow social distancing rules.[142] Speaking at the government's daily briefing later that day, 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".[143]

On 30 March, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister's Chief Adviser, was reported to be self-isolating after experiencing coronavirus symptoms.[144] As the number of reported deaths rose to 1,408, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK's chief scientific adviser told the government's daily briefing that there were early signs social distancing measures were "making a difference". Transmission of the virus within the community was thought to be decreasing, and hospital admission data suggested cases were not rising as fast as anticipated.[145] At the same briefing, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced an arrangement between the government and major UK airlines to fly home tens of thousands of British nationals who had been stranded abroad by the coronavirus outbreak.[146]

On 31 March it was announced that Harold Pearsall, a 97-year-old D-Day veteran from Tamworth, Staffordshire had died at the Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham after contracting the coronavirus. Pearsall received the Légion d'Honneur in 2015.[147] London's King's College Hospital confirmed that a 13-year-old boy who tested positive for coronavirus had died, thought to be the youngest person to die from the virus in the UK.[148] Dr Alfa Saadu, former medical director at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, became the fourth NHS doctor to die after contracting COVID-19 while working.[149] On the same day the largest UK death toll of the outbreak so far was reported, with 381 deaths taking the total to 1,789.[148] Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, the government body responsible for policy regarding technology in the NHS, said the organisation was looking seriously at a coronavirus app that would alert people if they had recently been in contact with someone testing positive for the virus after scientists advising the government suggested it "could play a critical role" in limiting lockdowns.[150]

Early April 2020

On 1 April the government confirmed that a total of 2,000 NHS staff had been tested for coronavirus since the outbreak began, but Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said a shortage of chemicals needed for the test meant it was not possible to screen the NHS's 1.2 million workforce.[151] Gove's statement was contradicted by the Chemical Industries Association, which said there was not a shortage of the relevant chemicals and that at a meeting with a business minister the week before the government had not tried to find out about potential supply problems.[152] On 1 April the number of deaths was confirmed to have increased by 563 to 2,362, while a total of 29,474 cases had been diagnosed, 4,324 over the previous 24 hours.[151]

Testing and surveillance

Warning notices at a London doctor's surgery, 13 March 2020

Shortly after confirming that the cause of the cluster of pneumonia in Wuhan was a new coronavirus, Chinese authorities had shared its genetic sequence for international developments of diagnostic kits.[37] The UK subsequently developed a prototype specific laboratory test for the new disease, performed on a sample from the nose, throat, and respiratory tract and tested at PHE's Colindale laboratories in London.[50] By 3 February 326 tests had been performed in the UK.[14] Over the following few weeks, PHE made the test available to 12 other laboratories in the UK, making it possible to test 1,000 people a day.[50]

Following 300 staff being asked to work from home on 26 February 2020 in London, while a suspected person was awaiting a test result for the virus, PHE announced it was to increase surveillance by widening testing around the UK to include people with flu-like symptoms at 100 GP surgeries and eight hospitals: the Royal Brompton and Harefield, Guy's and St Thomas' and Addenbrookes Hospital, as well as hospitals at Brighton and Sussex, Nottingham, South Manchester, Sheffield, Leicester.[153][154] Surveillance was shortly extended to some hospitals and GP surgeries in Scotland.[59]

Drive-through screening centres were set up by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust at Parsons Green Health Centre on 24 February 2020,[15] and by NHS Lothian at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.[16] A further drive-through testing station was set up by the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at a site just off the A57 Sheffield Parkway dual-carriageway on 10 March; in this case, patients ringing NHS 111 with coronavirus-like symptoms in the Sheffield area will be told to drive, if possible, to the testing centre at an allotted time.[155]

On 11 March NHS England announced that testing in NHS laboratories would increase from testing 1,500 to 10,000 per day.[71] The test consists of taking a sample from the nose, throat, deeper lung samples, blood or stool, and transporting the packed samples to the listed PHE regional laboratory designated for the referring laboratory region.[156][157] As of 12/13 March 2020, 29,764 tests had been conducted in the UK, corresponding to 450.8 tests per million people.[158] On 24 March, Matt Hancock said the government had bought 3.5m kits that would test if a person has already had COVID-19; no date was given for their arrival. These tests would allow people to know if they were immune due to expose and therefore about to "go back to work".[159] Hancock announced on 28 March that 10,000 tests a day were now being processed; the actual figure was 5,000.[160][161] As of 31 March, 143,186 people had been tested.[162]

The government and Public Health England were criticised for what some saw as a failure to organise mass testing. On 28 March the editor-in-chief of The Lancet published a condemnation of what he saw as government inaction and ignoring of WHO advice.[163] On 31 March former WHO director Anthony Costello, following WHO advice that countries should "test, test, test", said the key to the UK transitioning out of lockdown was mass testing, and that the UK had the capacity to reach the level of testing being carried out by Germany (70,000 tests a day, compared to the UK's 5,000), but that the government and Public Health England (PHE) had been too slow and controlling to organise.[164] The day after, Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and former Health Secretary, said it was "very worrying" that the government had not introduced mass testing because doing so had been "internationally proven as the most effective way of breaking the chain of transmission".[165]

Forecasting

Social distancing at a London pharmacy, 23 March 2020

Reports from the Medical Research Council's Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, London have been providing mathematically calculated estimates of cases and case fatality rates.[50][166] In February, the team at Imperial, led by epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, reported about two-thirds of cases in travellers from China were not detected and that some of these may have begun "chains of transmission within the countries they entered."[167][168][169] This translates to only one in three cases coming into the UK being detected.[170] They forecast that the new coronavirus could infect up to 60% of the UK's population, in the worst-case scenario.[171]

In a paper released but not yet published on 16 March, the Imperial team provided detailed forecasts of the potential impacts of the epidemic in the UK and US.[26][172] Their paper details the potential outcomes of an array of 'non-pharmaceutical interventions' such as contact tracing and case isolation, home self quarantine, closure of bars, social venues or schools, and social distancing. Two potential overall strategies outlined were: mitigation, in which the aim is to reduce the health impact of the epidemic but not to stop transmission completely; and suppression, where the aim is to reduce transmission rates to a point where case numbers fall. Until this point government actions had been based on a strategy of mitigation, but the modelling predicted that while this would reduce deaths by approximately 2/3, it would still lead to approximately 250,000 deaths from the disease and the health systems becoming overwhelmed.[26] On the same day as the report was released, the Prime Minister announced in a press conference significant changes to the government advice, extending self isolation to whole households, advising social distancing particularly for vulnerable groups, and indicating that further measures were likely to be required in the future.[24][172] A paper on 30 March by Imperial estimated that the lockdown would reduce the number of dead from 510,000 to less than 20,000.[173]

Response by sector

Government

English NHS coronavirus poster, February 2020[174]

Guidance has altered in line with the number of cases detected and changes in where affected people have contracted the virus, as well as with what has been happening in other countries.[45] In February, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government, Chris Whitty explained "we basically have a strategy which depends upon four tactical aims: the first one is to contain; the second of these is to delay; the third of these is to do the science and the research; and the fourth is to mitigate so we can brace the NHS."[17] These aims equate to four phases; specific actions involved in each of these phases are:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
  • Delay: slow the spread within the UK, and (if it does take hold) lower the peak impact and push it away from the winter season
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community, to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.[175]

The four UK CMOs raised the UK risk level from low to moderate on 30 January 2020, upon the World Health Organization's announcement of the disease as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.[13][14] As soon as cases appeared in the UK on 31 January 2020, a public health information campaign, similar to the previous "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" campaign, was launched in the UK, to advise people how to lessen the risk of spreading the virus.[14] Travellers from Hubei province in China, including the capital Wuhan were advised to self-isolate, "stay at home, not go to work, school or public places, not use public transport or taxis, ask friends, family members or delivery services to do errands",[176] and call NHS 111 if they had arrived in the UK in previous 14 days, regardless of whether they were unwell or not.[14] Further cases in early February prompted the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, to announce the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020.[13] Daily updates have been published by the DHSC.[13] NHS Digital in the meanwhile, have been collecting data.[177]

Poster for the "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" slogan which has been revived in the fight against coronavirus

On 25 February 2020, the UK's CMOs advice for all travellers (unwell or not) who had returned to the UK from Hubei province in the previous 14 days, Iran, specific areas designated by the Italian government as quarantine areas in northern Italy and special care zones in South Korea since 19 February, to self-isolate and call NHS 111.[47] This advice was also advocated for any person who has flu-like symptoms with a history of travelling from Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and areas in Italy north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini, returning to the UK since 19 February. Later, self-isolation was recommended for anyone returning from any part of Italy from 9 March.[13][47]

Initially Prime Minister Boris Johnson largely kept Britain open, resisting the kind of lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe. On Friday 13 March, UK chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told BBC Radio 4 that one of "the key things we need to do" is to "build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission".[178] This involves enough people getting infected, upon which they develop immunity to the disease.[179][180] Vallance said that 60% of the UK's population will need to become infected for herd immunity to be achieved.[181][180] This stance was criticised by experts who said that it would lead to hundreds of thousands deaths and overwhelm the NHS. Over 200 scientists urged the government to rethink the approach in an open letter.[182] Subsequently, Health Secretary Matt Hancock denied that herd immunity was a plan for the UK, although the Department of Health and Social Care said that "herd immunity is a natural byproduct of an epidemic".[183] There was also criticism over a lack of transparency around the scientific evidence being used to inform the government response, with a letter published in the Lancet on 17 March calling on the government to openly share its data and models as a matter of urgency.[184]

On 2 March, Boris Johnson said in an interview with BBC News: "The most important thing now is that we prepare against a possible very significant expansion of coronavirus in the UK population". This came after the 39th case in the UK was confirmed and over a month after the first confirmed case in the UK.[185] The same day, a BBC One programme Coronavirus: Everything You Need to Know addressed questions from the public on the outbreak.[186] The following day, the Coronavirus Action Plan was unveiled.[13] The next day, as the total number of cases in the UK stood at 51, the government declared the coronavirus pandemic as a "level 4 incident",[19] permitting NHS England to take command of all NHS resources.[19][187] Planning has been made for behaviour changing publicity including good hygiene and respiratory hygiene ("catch it, bin it, kill it"),[188] a simple measure which helps in delaying the peak of the infection and buys time for the testing of drugs and initial development of vaccines.[175] Primary care has been issued guidance.[189]

Controversy over apparent errors that the Government had made continued. For example, Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet told BBC's Question Time that "We knew in the last week of January that this was coming. The message from China was absolutely clear that a new virus with pandemic potential was hitting cities. ... We knew that 11 weeks ago and then we wasted February when we could have acted."[190]

Public Health England has also been involved with efforts to support the British Overseas Territories against the outbreak.[191][192]

On 27 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed he had contracted coronavirus and self-isolated, however he stated he would continue to lead the Government's response to coronavirus through video conference.[129]

Regulations and legislation

The government published the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020[193] on 10 February 2020, a statutory instrument covering the legal framework behind the government's initial containment and isolation strategies and its organisation of the national reaction to the virus. Other published regulations include changes to Statutory Sick Pay (into force on 13 March),[194] and changes to Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit (also 13 March).[195]

On 19 March, the government introduced the Coronavirus Act 2020, which grants the government discretionary emergency powers in the areas of the NHS, social care, schools, police, the Border Force, local councils, funerals and courts.[196] The act received royal assent on 25 March 2020.[197]

Closures to pubs, restaurants and indoor sports and leisure facilities were imposed via the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020.[198]

The restrictions on movements, except for allowed purposes are:

Communications

GOV.UK CORONAVIRUS ALERT. New rules in force now: you must stay at home. More info and exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
UK Government advisory SMS message, 24 March 2020

The government held daily evening press conferences starting on 17 March and broadcast on BBC One. These were mostly hosted by Boris Johnson with cabinet ministers (often Matt Hancock) and senior scientific advisors.[203]

On 24 March, all major mobile telephony providers, acting upon a government request, sent out an SMS message to each of their customers, with advice on staying isolated.[204] This was the first ever use of the facility.[204] Although the government in 2013 endorsed the use of Cell Broadcast to send official emergency messages to all mobile phones, and has tested such a system, it has never actually been implemented. Backer Toby Harris said that the government had not yet agreed upon who would fund and govern such a system.[205][206]

National Health Service

Appointments and self-isolation

A Coronavirus 'pod' at Hull Royal Infirmary.

In March, hospitals in England begin to prepare for the cancellation of all non-urgent elective procedures.[207] On 22 March, the government announced that it would be asking about 1.5 million people (everyone in England with certain health conditions that carry serious risk if infected) to self-isolate for 12 weeks. They were to be notified by mail or text messaged by their NHS general practitioners, and provided deliveries of medication, food, and household essentials, delivered by pharmacists and local governments, and at least initially paid for by the UK government.[208] Members of the public were told to stay at home, should they suspect they have symptoms of covid-19, and not visit a GP, pharmacy, or hospital.[209] For advice, the public were told to use a dedicated online self-assessment form before calling NHS 111, the non-emergency medical helpline.[210]

Equipment

On 16 March Boris Johnson met with business leaders via conference call and set them the target of delivering 30,000 ventilators in a fortnight; the government also declined to join an emergency European Union scheme to procure ventilators and other emergency equipment like personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospital staff, stating that the UK was no longer part of the EU and that this was area in which it was making its own efforts.[211] On 21 March, it was announced that NHS England had negotiated a deal to use, at cost price, almost the entire private health system, bringing 8,000 beds and 1,100 ventilators into the project.[212] Existing ventilator stocks stood at 5,900 at the beginning of the outbreak,[213] and the government had also acquired stocks from the armed forces and suppliers.[citation needed]

On 16 March primary care magazine Pulse reported doctors were receiving out of date PPE that had had its 2016 use-by date covered with a sticker saying "2021".[214] Earlier in the month, in response to a survey of Pulse's readership, two of five GPs reported they still did not have PPE to protect them from coronavirus.[214] Some of these concerns were raised with Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions, to which the Prime Minister replied the UK had "stockpiles" of PPE.[215] The same day, the Doctors' Association reported NHS staff felt they were being put at risk due to lack of PPE.[216] On 22 March, in a letter with 3,963 signatures published in The Times, NHS staff asked Johnson to "protect the lives of the life-savers" and resolve the what they saw as the "unacceptable" shortage of protective equipment.[217][218] On 23 March, in an effort to meet demand and due to concerns about the rising number of medics becoming ill after exposure to the virus, the NHS asked DIY stores to donate PPE for use by NHS staff.[219] Hancock admitted there were "challenges" with supplying PPE to NHS staff and said a million masks had been bought that weekend.[220] The following day, the government said there was enough PPE for everyone in the NHS who needed it; this was contradicted by the Royal College of Nursing (RCM),[221] and the British Medical Association (BMA), which said some of the PPE doctors had received were inadequate[222] and medics were resorting to wearing DIY PPE they had purchased themselves.[223] The BMA warned that without enough PPE doctors would die.[224]

People in London wear masks on 19 March 2020

On 1 April, the government said 390 million pieces of PPE had been distributed to the health service in the past fortnight. The Royal College of Midwives (RCM)[225] and the BMA challenged this, with the BMA saying the government needed to "be honest" about the supply of PPE because, despite repeated ministerial reassurances that the equipment had been procured, medical staff were not seeing it.[226] The RCM, in a joint statement with unions, including Unite, Unison and the GMB, said the lack of PPE was now 'a crisis within a crisis'.[221]

On 29 March the government issued specification for the "minimally clinically acceptable" manufacturer and use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines.[227]

Staffing

On 1 March, Hancock said retired NHS staff might be asked to return to work to help with the crisis.[228] The request was issued on 19 March and included final year medical students.[229] On 29 March, Boris Johnson announced that more than 20,000 former NHS staff were returning to work in response to the pandemic.[230]

On 21 March, it was announced that the NHS had negotiated a deal to use, at cost price, almost the entire private health system, bringing 20,000 medical staff into the national effort.[212]

On 24 March, Matt Hancock announced the start of a scheme to recruit 250,000 volunteers to support the NHS through the pandemic.[231] The volunteers would carry out jobs like collecting and deliver shopping, medication or "other essential supplies" for people in isolation; transporting equipment and medication between NHS services; transporting medically fit patients and providing telephone support to people at risk of loneliness because of self-isolation.[232] The target was surpassed in 24 hours and was raised to 750,000.[233] The scheme was paused on 29 March after the new target was reached.[232]


In addition military and sporting medical personnel are being brought in to assist.[citation needed]

Beds

The National Health Service freed up 30,000 beds by discharging patients who were well enough and delaying non-emergency treatment,[234] and acquired use of 20,000 beds in private sector facilities.[234] Emergency building work was undertaken to add capacity to existing hospitals, 52 beds in Wigan, for example.[235]

Three "Nightingale" hospitals were created with a capacity of up to 11,000 beds in London, Manchester and Birmingham, and more were planned for Glasgow and Endinbrigh.

NHS COVID-19 critical care hospitals

On 24 March, it was announced that NHS England would establish a temporary critical care hospital, NHS Nightingale Hospital London, in the Excel London conference centre.[115] The field hospital would have 4,000 beds in two wards.[236][237] Also on 24 March, it was reported that NHS Wales were looking at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff for a similar purpose.[116] On 25 March, it was confirmed that NHS Scotland had identified Glasgow's SEC Centre exhibition and conference facility as a potential site for a similar hospital in Scotland.[117] On 26 March it was reported that the Northern Ireland health service was also looking for potential sites to use for temporary hospitals.[118] On 27 March, NHS England announced that they would be establishing more NHS Nightingale Hospitals in other major UK conference centres to help to deal with the large number of cases expected,[119] at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham and at Manchester Central Convention Complex.[238] The London hospital is due to be opened in early April.[119]

Defence

In March 2020, the Ministry of Defence announced the formation of the COVID Support Force, a 20,000 strong military support force to support public services and civil authorities in tackling the virus.[101] Two military operations; Operation Rescript, based in the UK, and Operation Broadshare, focused on overseas defence activities, were launched.[102] 150 military personnel began receiving training to drive oxygen tankers for the NHS.[101] The Telegraph reported Chief of the Defence Staff Nick Carter had ordered the military to prepare for a "six month" operation.[239] The armed forces had already been used to assist the government in bringing British citizens home from affected areas, including China and Japan.[240] On 22 March, the Royal Air Force reportedly assisted repatriation flights of British and EU citizens from Cuba.[241] The Guardian reported that training exercises, including those overseas in Canada and Kenya, had been cancelled to free up personnel for the COVID Support Force.[242] Several air shows, including the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, were also cancelled.[243]

The Royal Air Force began using Birmingham Airport to practise transferring Coronavirus patients to local hospitals via helicopter.[244][245] A critically ill patient was also transported from the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Shetland to an intensive care ward in Aberdeen by an RAF Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft.[246]

On 24 March 2020, it was announced that military planners helped plan a temporary hospital to be opened in the ExCeL London conference centre, to be named the NHS Nightingale Hospital, which would be staffed by military medics, alongside the NHS.[247]

Transport

An empty M4 motorway in Cardiff on the afternoon of Saturday 28 March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic

Aviation

From the latter half of January, Heathrow Airport received additional clinical support and tightened surveillance of the three direct flights that it receives from Wuhan every week; each were to be met by a Port Health team.[37] Later, airlines including British Airways and Ryanair announced a number of flight cancellations for March.[21]

Regional airline Flybe had been brought to the brink of collapse following prior financial trouble earlier in the year. This, combined with decreased ticket sales as a result of the outbreak, caused the airline to stop ticket sales on 4 March 2020.[248][249] The company entered administration and ceased operations the following day.[250]

Despite some calls for a bailout, led mainly by Virgin Atlantic, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said that the government would only come into the picture as "a last resort".[251][252]

Public transport

On 20 March, Southeastern became the first train operating company to announce a reduced timetable, which would come into use from 23 March.[253] On that day the government announced emergency measures to safeguard the nation's rail network, with season ticket holders given refunds if working from home, and rail franchise agreements nationalised for at least six months to prevent train operating companies from collapsing.[254][255]

On 19 March, the Stagecoach Supertram light rail network in Sheffield announced that they would be switching to a modified Sunday service from 23 March until further notice.[256] Local bus operators First South Yorkshire and Stagecoach Yorkshire, which operate across the same area, announced that they would also be switching to a reduced timetable from 23 March.[257]

Transport for London (TfL) services are being reduced in stages. All Night Overground and Night Tube services, as well as all services on the Waterloo & City line, were suspended from 20 March, and 40 tube stations were closed on the same day.[258] The Mayor of London and TfL urged people to only use public transport if absolutely essential, so that it can be used by critical workers.[259] A further reduction in service from 23 March will affect London Overground, TfL Rail, Docklands Light Railway and London Trams services.[citation needed] The London Underground brought in new measures on 25 March to combat the spread of the coronavirus, by slowing the flow of passengers onto platforms. This was done by various means including queuing at the ticket gates and, in the somes cases, escalators were powered down.[260]

Consumer response

The almost empty pasta section in a London Tesco, 7 March 2020

It was reported in The Guardian that British supermarkets and their suppliers had developed a plan to ensure a consistent supply of a range of basic goods if there was panic-buying by consumers. Tesco, the country's largest supermarket chain, was said to have carried out simulation exercises to plan for events such as a pandemic flu outbreak which could be used to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.[22] There were reports of hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial products selling out at some supermarkets.[261] Online retailers reported consumers placing unusually large orders while the managing director of the frozen food chain Iceland reported increased sales of "multibuy deals and larger packs".[22]

People in London were buying more canned foods and toilet paper, 18 March 2020

Some supermarkets and other shops responded by limiting the amount customers brought of popular items, whilst others had a blanket limit across their entire range.[262][263] Sainsburys announced on 18 March that they would introduce a dedicated shopping hour for elderly and disabled customers, as well as giving them priority for online deliveries.[264] Other supermarkets, such as Iceland and Morrisons also introduced measures.[265] Sainsbury's further announced on 21 March that they would give healthcare workers allocated shopping hours on three mornings a week, along with elderly and vulnerable customers.[266]

Amazon stopped sellers from sending non essential products to their warehouses and Selfridges closed all its stores, however customers can still buy their products from their website.[267]

In response to the panic buying of food, Professor Stephen Powis, medical director at NHS England, said on 21 March that NHS staff were being deprived of food supplies because of the activities of some consumers, and urged people to shop responsibly. Helen Dickinson, head of the British Retail Consortium said that there was enough food in the supply chain, but that the issue was getting it to retailers quick enough, suggesting the food industry was experiencing "a peak in demand" like at Christmas, but "without the four-month build-up period." She added that that an extra £1bn had been spent on food in the preceding three weeks.[268] Environment Secretary George Eustice also urged shoppers to stop panic buying.[269] On the same day it was reported that Tesco, Asda, Aldi, and Lidl had begun a recruitment drive for up to 30,000 new staff.[270]

On 21 March, the government announced that the 5p charge for carrier bags would be waived for online food deliveries.[271]

Food and hospitality

Fast food and drink outlets, Pret a Manger and McDonald's[272] (among others) at first announced that they would not permit customers to sit and eat in stores, but customers could still order products to take away and consume off the premises. On 22 March McDonalds announced it would close all outlets in the UK and Ireland by 7pm on 23 March.[273] Nando's announced later the same day they would also close their outlets.[273]

Initially, the pub chain J D Wetherspoon remained open, despite government advice for the public to avoid places of social activity, including pubs. The chain announced that it would keep all pubs open "unless the government states otherwise"[274] On 20 March, all Wetherspoon pubs were closed in line with instructions from the government.[275]

Construction

Construction sites largely remained operational following the introduction of social distancing rules. Following criticism, Barratt, Taylor Wimpey, Mace and other companies paused work on 24 March.[276]

Economics

The governor of the Bank of England called on the British government to provide support to businesses affected by the virus[277] and was reported to be working with the Treasury to provide a stimulus package to prevent the British economy falling into recession.[278] Companies listed on the London stock markets have fallen in value with commentators citing worries about the virus.[279] To stimulate the economy, the Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75 to 0.25 percent.[280] On 19 March, the interest rate was again cut this time to 0.10% – the lowest rate in the bank's 325-year existence.[281]

Education

Following cases in Italy, the Cransley School in Northwich, Cheshire, and Trinity Catholic College in Middlesbrough closed, as some of their pupils had returned with symptoms from Italy. Fourteen schools in England had closed by 28 February.[20] Loughborough University reported a student confirmed to have the virus after recent travel to Italy, and indicated that several staff members and students began self-isolation.[282]

Cambridge University was heavily criticised for their incoherent response to the pandemic which forced international students and staff to scramble to make arrangements to return home with only two days' notice. On 13 March, students and staff were advised that international travel was discouraged and university facilities would stay open at reduced capacity. However, on 18 March, Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope announced a sudden U-turn and all university buildings would be indefinitely shut from all staff and students from the afternoon of Friday 20 March onwards, and all students are strongly encouraged to leave Cambridge.[283] The president of Cambridge UCU criticised that this sudden shutdown will exacerbate the pandemic as students from countries with weaker healthcare provisions are forced to return home.[283] Over a thousand Cambridge students signed an open letter requesting to have multiple assessment options in lieu of the cancelled examinations in Cambridge, including the option to retake part or all of the academic year in 2020–21.[284]

Coventry University first suspended all graduation ceremonies due to be held in March and April,[285] and from 20 March, suspended all face-to-face teaching, in favour of on-line delivery.[286] Many other higher education institutions took similar steps at around the same time.[287]

On 18 March, the Welsh government announced that all schools in Wales would be closing by 20 March.[288] On the same day, the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scottish schools would also be closing from 20 March, and may not reopen before the summer.[289] Later that day, it was announced that schools in Northern Ireland would close to pupils immediately and to staff on 20 March.[290] Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson announced that schools in England would close from 20 March for an unspecified length of time.[291] Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, however, that schools will still look after the children of key workers, and vulnerable children.[292] The UK government also announced that GCSE and A Level exams were to be cancelled, an unprecedented action in UK educational history, and that grades were to be given out based on predicted grades and teacher assessment.[292][293][294]

Religion

Notice at Episcopal Church in Gourock; No public services until further notice.

With respect to Christianity, the Church of England, the established church of England, as well as other ecclesiastical provinces of the Anglican Communion in the British Isles such as the Church in Wales, and the Scottish Episcopal Church, suspended in-person worship amidst the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.[295][296][297] The Archbishop of Canterbury led a virtual worship service that was broadcast on thirty-nine local BBC stations.[298] The Catholic Church, Methodist Church in Great Britain and the Society of Friends have also put a temporary moratorium on public worship.[299][300] Many Christian churches are broadcasting worship services via online livestream, radio and television.[301]

The chief rabbi in the United Kingdom advised the suspension of Jewish worship in synagogues and the Muslim Council of Britain has ordered the closure of mosques in the country.[299]

Law and order

On 17 March trials lasting longer than three days were postponed until May in England and Wales, while Scottish courts were not starting any new trial indefinitely. In England and Wales those cases already running would continue in the hope of reaching a conclusion.[302][303] A poll published on 20 March claimed that only 23% of British adults were strictly following the government's coronavirus advice.[304]

Personal attacks

There have been reports of hate incidents against Italian and Chinese persons[305] and a Singaporean student was assaulted in London in an attack that police linked to coronavirus fears.[306]

Prisons

The government released specific guidance to prisons in the event of coronavirus symptoms or cases, specifically the rule that "any prisoner or detainee with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature should be placed in protective isolation for 7 days".[307] There are around 83,000 prisoners in England and Wales.[308]

On 14 March, a prison officer in HMP High Down in Surrey tested positive for the virus and was sent home to self-isolate. Four officers who had contact with him were placed in isolation as a precaution.[309] On 18 March, the first coronavirus case was reported within the UK prison population. The prisoner, who had been serving time in HMP Manchester (commonly referred to as Strangeways), was moved to a hospital. While no other prisoners or staff tested positive for the virus, thirteen prisoners and four members of staff were put into isolation as a precaution.[310] Prison visits remained open, but the situation is being monitored.[311] On 19 March, it was revealed that around 75 officers at HMP Berwyn in Wales were off work due to sickness or self-isolation, and 22 prisoners showing symptoms of coronavirus were being isolated by the prison. However, the prison had enough staff members to remain fully operational.[312] Another prison officer tested positive on 20 March at HMP Whitemoor near March, Cambridgeshire.[313]

Following the case in HMP Manchester, public services think tank Reform called for the release of 2,305 "low-risk" offenders on short sentences to reduce the risk of coronavirus on the prison population.[314] Their report argues that prison are "overcrowded [with] insanitary conditions and poor-quality healthcare".[315] Similar actions have been taken in Iran and the United States.[316] Former justice secretary David Gauke echoed similar sentiments, citing the "churn" of prisoners going in and out of prison as a risk.[317]

On 23 March, a prisoner tested positive for the virus at HMP Birmingham and was placed into isolation. The prison was not placed into full lockdown, but made the decision to restrict access.[318] On the same day, a prisoner at HMP Oakwood near Wolverhampton tested positive for the virus and was placed into isolation. Visits to the prison were not stopped, but it is believed they were reduced.[319]

On 24 March, the Ministry of Justice announced that prison visits would be suspended and that inmates would be confined to their cells.[320] In order to maintain communication between prisoners and their families, the government promised 900 secure phones to 55 prisons, with calls being monitored and time-limited.[321] In a committee meeting on the same day, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland suggested that 50 pregnant inmates might be given early release, and another 9,000 inmates awaiting trial could be transferred to bail hostels.[322]

On 26 March, it was reported that 84-year-old convicted paedophile Edwin Hillier had died from COVID-19 on 22 March at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire,[323] becoming the first inmate in the UK to die from the virus. Another 66-year-old male inmate died from COVID-19 on 26 March at HMP Manchester.[324] As of 1pm the previous day, there were 19 confirmed cases in the prison population across 10 prisons.[308]

Immigration centres

During mid-March, 300 people were released from immigration detention centres because of the pandemic following a campaign by charities concerned with an outbreak of covid-19 in the centres.[325] On 25 March, it was reported that three immigration detention centres had reported cases of people with coronavirus.[326]

Policing

On 26 March, in an attempt to emphasise the importance of following the social distancing instructions given by the government, the police were given powers to impose fines on individuals gathered in groups or who refuse to return home when asked to.[327] By 31 March, some police forces, and individual officers, were being criticised for over-zealous application of the new powers[327] and new guidance was released by the National Police Chiefs Council.[328]

Sport

On 5 March, the England–Italy fixtures in the men's and women's' Six Nations Championship tournaments, set to be played in Rome on 14 and 15 March, were postponed by tournament organisers after the Italian government introduced restrictions on attendances to sporting events.[329] Scotland's Women's Six Nations home fixture against France on 7 March was also postponed after one Scotland player tested positive for the virus.[330] The Rugby Football Union suspended all forms of rugby in England from 17 March to 14 April, which was then extended to the end of the season with the exception of the Premiership on 20 March. The Welsh Rugby Union also suspended all forms of rugby in Wales from 14 to 30 March, which also extended to the end of the season of 20 March.[citation needed]

To contain the spread of the virus the Premier League announced on 6 March an end to pre-match fair play handshakes between players and officials.[331] On 10 March, the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal was postponed in light of confirmation that Nottingham Forest and Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis had contracted the virus. Marinakis had met with several Arsenal players when the London side hosted Olympiacos in a Europa League round of 32 match.[332] On 10 March the four-day Cheltenham Festival continued as planned with enhanced hygiene measures in place,[333] as did the All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham the next day.[334]

On 12 March, it was announced that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta had tested positive to COVID-19,[335] and the next day Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi became the first Premier League player to test positive for coronavirus.[336] Professional football was later suspended across the United Kingdom on 13 March, with the Premier League, English Football League, Women's Super League, and Welsh and Northern Irish football leagues delaying matches until the beginning of April[337] and the Scottish Professional Football League suspending matches indefinitely.[338] Professional football in England was later postponed until the end of April.[339] The day also saw the cancellation of the Wales–Scotland Six Nations match scheduled for 14 March[340] and the postponement of the London, Manchester and Brighton Marathons from their April dates until the autumn.[341]

The next five days saw a flurry of further sporting cancellations. Five fixtures set to be played on Saturday 14 March in the National League were postponed,[342] with all matches across both the National League and the Northern Premier League suspended two days later and the Football Association recommending the postponement of grassroots level football "for the foreseeable future".[343] The Welsh Rugby Union discontinued all rugby matches across Wales from Saturday evening until the end of the month.[344] On Sunday 15 March the Netball Superleague was postponed.[345] Premiership Rugby was suspended for five weeks on Monday 16 March, with all rugby activities in England being delayed until 14 April.[346] Monday additionally saw the cancellation of the Grand National,[347] the postponement of the Edinburgh Marathon from May to September,[348] and the first peacetime cancellation of the Boat Race.[349] On Tuesday 17 March all motor racing events sanctioned by the national governing body Motorsport UK were suspended until May.[350] All horse racing events were similarly suspended the following day,[347] as were all boxing tournaments until further notice subject to a British Boxing Board of Control review in April.[351]

Arts and entertainment

Music

The "Wee Annie" statue in Gourock with a face mask, on 22 March.

On 13 March, BBC Radio 1 announced that it would cancel its Big Weekend music festival, scheduled to take place in Dundee over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.[352] Other music events to be cancelled included the C2C: Country to Country festival, the UK's largest country music event,[353] and the 2020 Glastonbury Festival which was cancelled on 18 March.[354] On 23 March, Pride in London, the UK's largest LGBT Pride festival, scheduled for 27 June, was postponed. It was one of a hundred pride events to be postponed or cancelled in the UK.[355] The Isle of Wight and Download music festivals, scheduled for June, were cancelled on 26 March.[356] The Cambridge Folk Festival, scheduled to take place over four days from 30 July, was cancelled on 27 March.[357]

Among the artists and bands to postpone or cancel UK gigs or tours were Avril Lavigne and The Who.[353][358] Other, including Chris Martin of Coldplay, Yungblud, Keith Urban and Christine And The Queens responded to the situation by live-streaming gigs through social media.[359] On 25 March, the former Beautiful South members Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott announced they would play a free show for NHS staff working on the frontline of the pandemic, giving away 9,000 free tickets for the event in October.[360] On 31 March, Rick Astley announced that he would play a free gig for NHS frontline, primary care and emergency staff at the Manchester Arena on 28 October.[361]

Theatre and cinema

On 15 March, London's Old Vic became the first West End theatre to cancel a performance when it ended its run of Samuel Beckett's Endgame two weeks early.[362] On 16 March, other theatres in London, as well as elsewhere around the UK, closed following Boris Johnson's advice that people should avoid such venues.[363] On 17 March, cinema chains Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Picturehouse announced they would be closing all of their UK outlets.[364] On 1 April it was announced that the annual Edinburgh festivals held in August would not take place in 2020.[365]

Television and radio

Television programmes to be affected included forthcoming series of Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty, which had their filming schedules delayed.[366] On 13 March, ITV announced that the 2020 series finale of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, scheduled to be broadcast from Walt Disney World in Florida would no longer go ahead after the resort announced its intention to close as a precautionary measure.[367] On 16 March, ITV announced that the filming schedule for its two soaps, Coronation Street and Emmerdale had not been affected by the pandemic, but said the programmes would "remind people of important public health issues" like hand-washing.[366] Two days later ITV said that the filming schedule for Coronation Street would change, and the number of weekly episodes be reduced,[368] This was followed on 22 March by the announcement that filming would completely cease from the following day.[369] On 18 March ITV announced the semi-final of the ninth series of The Voice UK, scheduled for Saturday 28 March, would be postponed until later in the year.[370]

On 16 March, the BBC delayed the implementation of its planned changes to TV licences for those aged over 75 from June to August.[371] On 25 March the BBC also announced that it would delay its plans to cut 450 news jobs due to the pressure of covering the pandemic.[372]

On 17 March, the BBC announced major changes to the schedule across the network. While programmes such as Politics Live, Victoria Derbyshire, The Andrew Neil Show, Newswatch, The Travel Show and HARDtalk were suspended, others such as Newsnight and The Andrew Marr Show would continue with a smaller number of production staff. Question Time would be moved to an earlier timeslot and be broadcast without an audience from a fixed location. Podcast programmes Americast, Beyond Today and The Next Episode were also suspended.[373] On 18 March it was announced that filming on the sets of Casualty, Doctors, EastEnders, Holby City, Pobol y Cwm and River City would be suspended. The broadcaster additionally announced that the number of weekly episodes of EastEnders would be reduced to ensure that it remained on screen for as long as possible.[368] The BBC also said that it would show more educational programmes to cater for children not attending school, and that it was in talks with the Department for Education and schools to support GCSE and A Level curriculums with extra programmes on BBC Four and the BBC Red Button service.[374] The BBC would also broadcast more programmes focused on health, fitness, education, religion and food recipes, while both the BBC and ITV would produce a weekly prime-time programme giving the public information about the coronavirus pandemic.[370] On the same day the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, scheduled to be held in Rotterdam in May, was also cancelled.[375] On 22 March, ITV announced that its daytime programmes Lorraine and Loose Women would cease live broadcasting from the following day.[369]

On radio the BBC World Service programmes The World This Week, World Update and Weekend were all suspended. Radio news summaries on Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live were merged into a single output, with BBC 6 Music using the same script. The BBC Asian Network and Newsbeat worked together to maintain production of stories. Week in Westminster which broadcasts on Radio 4 was also suspended.[373] On 18 March, the BBC announced that its local radio stations in England would broadcast a virtual church service, led initially by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but with plans to expand religious services to cover other faiths.[370] On the same day Radio News Hub, a radio news bulletin provider based in Leeds announced that it would produce a daily ten-minute programme giving a round-up of information about the pandemic and that would be made available free of charge to radio stations.[376] On 28 March *28 March, BBC Local Radio announced that it had teamed up with manufacturers, retailers and the social isolation charity WaveLength to give away free DAB radios to vulnerable people over the age of 70.[377]

Royal family

On 4 March, the 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II wore long gloves while awarding honours at a public investiture ceremony, prompting some to speculate the measure as a precaution against COVID-19.[378][379] On 19 March the Queen left London for Windsor Castle.[380] On the same day she issued a message to the nation noting that the country and the world was entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.[381] Her grandsons Princes William and Harry both sent messages out via social media.[382] Princess Beatrice cancelled her wedding reception at Buckingham Palace and took further advice on whether to carry on with a private wedding ceremony.[383]

On 9 March, Prince Charles greeted people with the Namaste hand gesture instead of a handshake at the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey to avoid the spread of the virus, and did the same for the Prince's Trust Awards on 11 March.[384] On 10 March, Charles met Prince Albert of Monaco, who later came down with the infection.[385] On 25 March, it was announced that he had received a positive test result for COVID-19 and was suffering mild symptoms. He self-isolated at Birkhall on the Balmoral Castle estate.[386][387] Concerns were raised for the health of the entire Royal Family, as well as concerns that he may have unwittingly become a super-spreader of the disease due to the vast number of people he regularly meets. Charles last saw the Queen on 12 March, just one day before the earliest date medical experts believe he would have been contagious.[385] The Duchess of Cornwall tested negative, but self-isolated with him.[386][387] On 30 March Clarence House, the Prince's official residence, confirmed that he had come out of self-isolation after seven days having recovered from the illness.[388][389]

On 29 March the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge gave their support to a Public Health England campaign to protect people's mental health during the outbreak. The campaign encourages people to stay in touch with family and friends via telephone and social media.[390]

Spread to other countries and territories

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 upon her return from WE Day events in the UK; on 12 March 2020 the Trudeau family entered two weeks of self-isolation.[391] The first patient in Mauritius was a 59-year-old man who returned from the United Kingdom on 7 March 2020. When he arrived in Mauritius, the Mauritian had no symptoms.[392] Other cases of the novel coronavirus resulting from travel to the UK were subsequently reported in India,[393][394] and Nigeria.[395]

Statistics

The figures in the table below represent laboratory confirmed cases only; however, as indicated by the UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, it is likely that other cases in the UK are not reflected in these figures (on 12 March 2020 there were 596 confirmed cases, but the total number of cases was estimated at 5,000–10,000).[74] Death statistics are presented daily, but there may be a delay between death and it entering official statistics so families can be informed first. The delay is usually just a few days, but can be over a week.[396]

Known locations of death are shown in brackets.


COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom by area ()

Date England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales Confirmed cases Deaths Tested Sources
East London Midlands NE & Yorks North West South East South West As yet unclassified New Total New Total New Total
31 Jan 2 2 2 [397] [398]
6 Feb 1 1 3
10 Feb 4 4 7
12 Feb 1 1 8 [399]
23 Feb 4 4 12
27 Feb 1 1 1 3 15 7,690 [400] [401]
28 Feb 2 1 1 1 5 20 1,296 8,986 [402] [403]
29 Feb 1 1 1 3 23 1,497 10,483 [404]
1 Mar 2 1 1 1 3 1 3 12 35 1,267 11,750 [405] [406] [407] [408]
2 Mar 1 1 1 1 4 39 1,775 13,525 [409] [408] [410] [411] [412]
3 Mar 12 12 51 386 13,911 [413]
4 Mar 32 2 2 36 87 2,748 16,659 [414] [415] [416]
5 Mar (1) 25 3 1 29 116 1 1 1,424 18,083 [417] [418] [419] [420] [421] [422]
6 Mar 3 4 3 3 4 7 7 11 1 5 48 164 1 2 2,255 20,338 [423] [424] [425] [426]
7 Mar 5 9 5 5 5 6 3 −1 3 5 45 209 2 1,122 21,460 [427] [428] [429]
8 Mar 7 13 8 5 (1) 11 10 6 5 2 2 69 280 1 3 2,053 23,513 [430] [431] [432] [433] [434] [435]
9 Mar 1 10 6 4 4 2 3 6 5 2 43 321 2 5 1,447 24,960 [436] [437] [438] [439] [440] [441]
10 Mar 5 30 5 2 2 8 3 −11 4 4 9 61 384 1 6 1,301 26,261 [442] [443] [444] [445] [446] [442]
11 Mar 3 13 6 (2) 8 6 9 3 15 2 9 4 78 460 2 8 1,215 27,476 [447] [448] [449]
12 Mar 32 2 12 10 23 −2 27 2 24 6 136 586 2 10 1,698 29,174 [450]
13 Mar 7 31 15 5 9 27 7 55 9 25 (1) 12 202 798 1 11 3,597 32,771 [451] [452]
14 Mar 4 146 16 18 7 34 4 49 5 36 23 342 1,140 10 21 4,975 37,746 [453]
15 Mar 28 94 19 24 7 31 8 −37 11 32 34 251 1,391 14 35 2,533 40,279
16 Mar 10 73 35 −5 7 −2 16 −37 7 18 30 (1) 152 1,543 20 55 3,826 44,105 [454]
17 Mar 12 141 11 −12 74 68 18 49 10 24 (1) 12 (1) 407 1,950 16 71 6,337 50,442 [455]
18 Mar 35 332 94 94 23 44 22 −19 6 32 (1) 13 676 2,626 32 103 5,779 56,221 [456] [457] [458]
19 Mar 19 268 (2) 48 26 40 55 23 95 9 39 (3) 21 643 3,269 41 144 8,400 64,621 [459] [460]
20 Mar 16 367 107 39 54 70 29 −54 9 56 21 714 3,983 33 177 2,355 66,976
21 Mar 58 377 102 65 38 82 47 104 18 51 (1) 89 (3) 1,035 5,018 56 233 5,824 72,818
22 Mar 53 224 133 70 78 44 26 65 24 (1) 43 (3) 67 (7) 665 5,683 48 281 5,522 78,340 [461] [462]
23 Mar 77 244 184 78 106 54 36 14 20 (2) 83 (4) 71 (4) 967 6,650 54 335 5,605 83,945 [463] [464] [465] [466]
24 Mar 78 439 266 96 97 161 67 54 24 (1) 85 (2) 60 (1) 1,427 8,077 87 422 6,491 90,436 [467] [468] [469] [470]
25 Mar 51 375 222 156 110 125 52 39 37 (2) 135 (6) 150 (5) 1,452 9,529 156 578 6,583‬ 97,019 [471] [472]
26 Mar 112 672 340 193 134 253 56 49 32 175 (3) 113 (6) 2,129 11,568 181 759 7,847 104,866 [471]
27 Mar 204 718 454 331 183 477 81 58 34 165 (15) 180 (6) 2,885 14,543 260 1,019 8,911 113,777 [471]
28 Mar 205 662 348 275 233 121 115 180 49 (2) 186 (7) 172 (4) 2,546 17,089 209 1,228 6,999 120,776 [473]
29 Mar 138 658 386 295 283 160 84 56 86 139 148 (10) 2,433 19,522 180 1,408 6,961 127,737
30 Mar 200 564 364 295 311 214 85 74 123 (6) 179 (1) 210 (14) 2,619 22,141 381 1,789 7,209 134,946
31 Mar 293 600 382 261 285 324 148 121 53 (1) 430 (6) 112 (7) 3,009 25,150 563 2,352 8,240 143,186
1 Apr 4,324 29,474 569 2,921 9,793 152,979
2 Apr 4,244 33,718 10,215 163,194
Total 1,632 7,121 3,570 2,348 2,132 2,425 966 814 533 1,563 1,451 33,718 N/A 2,921 N/A 163,194 N/A
  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland only.
  • Totals for England are not the sum of the row above since detailed information about all locations of cases has not been published.

Graphs

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Not included in this data is the death of one British citizen on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship on 28 February – see the 2020 coronavirus pandemic on cruise ships article for more information on this case. Also not included is the death of one British citizen in the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands – see the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the Cayman Islands article for more information on this case.
  2. ^ Daily updates occur around 2 pm UTC.
  3. ^ In addition to this figure, there have been eight confirmed cases in the British Overseas Territories (including in Gibraltar,[8] Akrotiri and Dhekelia,[9] Bermuda,[10] the Cayman Islands,[11] and Montserrat).[12]

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External links