One year on: How COVID first arrived in the UK – and what happened next
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 28/01/2021
Coronavirus has spread through the UK with bewildering speed, upending our lives and presenting those in power with a seemingly insurmountable challenge.
The UK surpassed 100,000 deaths this week – becoming the fifth country to reach this milestone after the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.
One year on from the first British case being reported, we look back at what happened in the immediate weeks after.
The UK’s first positive tests
The UK’s first two patients for COVID-19 were two Chinese nationals from the same family staying at a hotel in York.
One was a student at the University of York, the other was his mother who was visiting him in the UK.
The family was from Hubei province where Wuhan, the city where the outbreak started, is located.
On 29 January 2020, the son rang NHS 111 to report they both had a fever and a cough. Later that evening, two paramedics wearing hazmat suits arrived and an ambulance took them to hospital in Hull, where they were tested.
On 31 January, they were taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle – where it was confirmed they had tested positive for coronavirus.
British Airways then suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect.
A plane bringing 83 Britons from Wuhan arrived at RAF Brize Norton on 31 January – and the plane’s passengers began a 14-day quarantine at a specialist hospital on Merseyside.
That day, the World Health Organisation declared a global public health emergency.
First UK victims
On 30 January, Peter Attwood, an 84-year-old from Kent, passed away – with his death initially being blamed on heart failure and pneumonia.
It was not until the end of August that tests confirmed he died of COVID-19, making him the first known victim.
The first deaths involving COVID in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were registered in March.
Steve Walsh, a businessman from Hove, tested positive on 6 February, having contracted the illness at a conference in Singapore before going on a skiing holiday to the French Alps.
The 53-year-old was dubbed a “superspreader” and was linked with 11 other cases, five in the UK.
The early months
Cases continued to rise steadily through February and March, with the first case in London, soon to become the centre of the UK’s outbreak, recorded on 11 February.
A further four cases were confirmed on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and transferred to hospitals in the UK.
Ministers told anyone returning home from Hubei, Iran and parts of South Korea to self-isolate, even if they had no symptoms.
A coronavirus outbreak was confirmed at a Nike conference in Edinburgh at the end of the month, with at least 25 people linked to the event believed to have contracted the illness.
The first British death from the disease, a man quarantined on the Diamond Princess, was confirmed by the Japanese Health Ministry.
The first lockdown
With the virus surging, Britons were told they can only leave home for limited reasons, including food shopping, exercise once per day, medical needs and travelling for work when absolutely necessary.
All shops selling non-essential goods were told to close, gatherings of more than two people in public were banned, events including weddings were cancelled.
The UK is currently in its third lockdown.
© Sky News 2020