Covid timeline: Weeks leading up to first UK lockdown | Coronavirus

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December 31, 2019: China alerts the World Health Organization (WHO) to dozens of cases of “viral pneumonia” in the central city of Wuhan.

January 11, 2020: China reports its first death, a 61-year-old man in Wuhan, from the mysterious new disease. At least seven other patients are in critical condition.

January 23: China orders lockdowns for millions of people in Wuhan and Hubei province as the country’s death toll hits 18.

A man crosses a deserted highway on February 3 in Wuhan, Hubei province. Photograph: Stringer / Getty Images

January 24: UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock chairs the first Cobra meeting on Covid. England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty says the risk to the British public is low.

January 30: A Chinese couple from Wuhan fall ill on a trip to Italy and are confirmed as the country’s first two cases. The risk level of the virus in the UK has dropped from low to moderate as the WHO declares a global health emergency.

January 31: Two cases of Covid are confirmed in the UK.

February 2: UK government recommends regular hand washing, but Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) advises against restricting mass gatherings

February 10: Public Health England is rolling out coronavirus tests in 12 UK laboratories.

February 22: Cases are increasing in Italy, causing lockdowns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.

Coronavirus: Italians in quarantine sing from balconies to boost morale - video
Coronavirus: Italians in quarantine sing from balconies to boost morale – video

February 25: Sage says social distancing and school closures can reduce transmission by 50 to 60 percent.

February 28: Man quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan becomes the first confirmed British death from Covid.

3rd of March : Boris Johnson boasts of shaking hands with “everyone” during a recent hospital visit. On the same day, Sage warns “against greetings such as shaking hands and hugging, given the existing evidence on the importance of hand hygiene.”

‘I shook everyone’s hands,’ says Boris Johnson weeks before coronavirus diagnosis – video

March 4: A 70-year-old woman with underlying health issues becomes the first person to die with Covid in the UK. The cases exceed 100.

March 11 : WHO declares Covid-19 a pandemic.

March 17: Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, told MPs that keeping the total number of Covid-19 deaths below 20,000 would be “a good result”.

March 18 : Boris Johnson announces the indefinite closure of schools, with the cancellation of A-levels and GCSEs, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

An information board displays a message asking people to 'stay at home' in Manchester, March 27, 2020.
An information board displays a message asking people to ‘stay at home’ in Manchester, March 27, 2020. Photograph: Oli Scarff / AFP via Getty Images

March 19: Johnson says the UK can ‘turn the tide’ of the disease in 12 weeks and ‘send coronavirus packages’.

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says UK can 'turn the tide' in 12 weeks - video
Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says UK can ‘turn the tide’ in 12 weeks – video

In the days and weeks that followed, images show thousands of tourists waiting to board flights to their home countries as closures are announced.

Thousands of tourists wait to board their flights to return to their home countries at Lanzarote Airport in the Canary Islands in Spain.
Thousands of tourists wait to board their flights to return to their home countries at Lanzarote Airport in the Canary Islands in Spain. Photograph: Javier Fuentes / EPA

March 23: Boris Johnson announces the UK’s first national lockdown. People can only leave their homes for strictly limited reasons and the police have the power to enforce the rules. The leave scheme introduced by Rishi Sunak is widely hailed as an important intervention to protect jobs during the lockdown.

March 26: Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Health and Safety Agency, says testing and contact tracing is no longer “appropriate”. She adds that the WHO call to “test, test, test” is aimed at less developed countries.

A pigeon crosses a closed and empty Greenwich Market in London on April 28, 2020.
A pigeon crosses a closed and empty Greenwich Market in London on April 28, 2020. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images


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