Thursday 23 March marks three years since Boris Johnson announced the first lockdown, as coronavirus swept the UK.
On the first-year anniversary, all four UK nations issued lockdown decrees, after the virus resurged early in 2021, before the vaccine programme had a chance to take effect.
Though the Government has long since lifted all Covid restrictions and safety measures, the UK is by no means free of the disease – i reported Covid cases shot up by 20 per cent during December, as experts warned a new wave of the virus was spreading.
By 21 March 2023, more than 6,879,677 deaths globally, where the individual had Covid-19, were reported to the World Health Organisation – with 209,396 of those in the UK since the start of lockdown in 2020.
Though daily testing and social isolation is a thing of the past for most people today, may still live in fear of the virus making a deadly comeback. Here’s a timeline of the most significant events since the start of the the pandemic.
23 March: First lockdown announced
Following a Cobra meeting, Boris Johnson tells people they must stay at home, and may only leave for essential reasons, including buying food and exercising, once a day. He describes Covid-19 as “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades” and urges the public to stay at home and clap the NHS.
10 May: Lockdown eased
As the weather starts to warm, Mr Johnson begins to relax the rules, saying people are now allowed to sunbathe in parks and exercise outdoors more than once per day.
1 June: First pupils return to school
Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 are allowed to return to the classroom for the first time in three months.
4 July: Pubs, salons and shops repoen
Crowds flock to pubs to toast the trimming of their lockdown mullets, and book hotels as lockdown restrictions ease around England. Holidays to an initial list of 73 countries, known as “travel corridor” destinations are allowed – though wearing masks on flights, rapid flow tests and socially distanced seating on airplanes remained mandatory.
12 October: Regional tier system introduced
Different regions are put in different tiers with a higher or lower level of restrictoind depending on the severity of outbreaks in each region. The aim is to avoid a second national lockdown but the system attracts criticism for being unenforceable and confusing. Liverpool City is the only area placed in the top tier, tier three – banning people from socialising indoors.
5 November: ‘Circuit-breaker’ national lockdown begins
At the end of October, Mr Johnson announced a four-week national “circuit breaker” lockdown to try to stop the renewed spread of Covid. He also announces a u-turn on pubs, restaurants and “non-essential” retail – forcing them to close again.
2 December: Another tier system
In the absence of most pre-Christmas festivities, the Prime Minister brings back the tier system, placing more areas in tier three. A fourth tier is added later in the month, as a new variant of Covid-19 spreads rapidly in the South East and London.
19 December: Christmas cancelled
In a Cromwellian pivot, Mr Johnson essentially cancells Christmas as the new variant spread throughout South East. Christmas “bubbles” – a group of people with whom you were permitted close physical contact – are burst as 18 million people are told to socially isolate for the festive period. Everyone else is told to spend just a day with family, rather than the five days that were initially proposed.
30 December: Most of the country moved to tier four
Almost 80 per cent of the population are placed in tier four as the new variant spread rampantly beyond the South East, and lockdown measures are back in place for the majority of England.
4 January: Third national lockdown begins
Schools are forced to shut again, along with pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail, as people are once again ordered to stay at home.
15 February: Hotel quarantine introduced
Despite the national lockdown, overseas travel to some countries is still permitted, though regulations are tightened. Anyone travelling to the UK from a country on the travel ban list is required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days.
8 March: Schools reopen
The Prime Minister begins to plan the country’s “roadmap” out of lockdown, with children returning to school a priority.
21 April: Shopping and going-out restrictions eased
Step two of the roadmap sees retail businesses, deemed “non-essential” – including hairdressers and gyms – are allowed to reopen, alongside hospitality venues offering outdoor service.
17 May: Meeting up gets easier – and travel
Up to 30 can meet outdoors and Rule of Six returns for indoors. Pubs and restaurants reopen indoors and sports stadiums are allowed to host up to 10,000 ticketholders. International travel reopens under traffic light system, placing countries on green, amber and red lists depending on their Covid levels.
14 June: Omicron gets in the way
Stage four of the roadmap to ease lockdown, which was planned for 21 June, is delayed by four weeks to allow more people to receive the vaccine, as the Omicron variant causes a spike in new cases and becomes the dominant strain.
19 July: Most remaining restrictions lifted
Nightclubs are allowed to reopen, as cases decline then plateau with the national vaccination programme having the desired effect.
8 December: Move to Plan B, masks are back
By winter, cases are rising again. Further measures, including mandatory mask-wearing in indoor venues including cinemas, theatres and museums, are announced as Omicron takes hold.
15 December: Covid pass in England
England follows Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by introducing the Covid pass, requiring adults to share vaccination or test results to enter venues.
18 January: Back to Plan A as Omicron eases
In the new year, the Prime Minister announces plans to remove self-isolation requirements by 24 March at the latest as Omicron cases fell.
24 February: Time to live with the virus
By the end of February, all restrictions and measures are lifted as the government focuses efforts on moving forward with a “live with the virus” strategy, urging people back to some semblance of normal life.