Covid timeline: Key moments one year on since the UK’s first lockdown

It's 12 months since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced for the first time that the UK public must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 7:00 am

Here is a reminder of some of the key moments since the UK was plunged into a national lockdown almost 12 months ago.

– March 23: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the first UK lockdown, telling the public they will only be allowed to leave their homes for limited reasons, including food shopping, exercise once per day, medical need and travelling for work when absolutely necessary.

All shops selling non-essential goods are told to close, gatherings of more than two people in public are banned, events including weddings – but excluding funerals – are cancelled.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson

– March 24: Mr Hancock reveals that a new Nightingale hospital – with a capacity of 4,000 – is being prepared at the ExCeL Centre in London.

– March 25: The Prince of Wales tests positive for coronavirus but is displaying only “mild symptoms”, Clarence House says.

– March 27: Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock test positive for Covid-19, while England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty says he has symptoms and is self-isolating.

– April 5: The Queen tells the nation if we “remain united and resolute” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, “we will overcome it”.

Downing Street says the Prime Minister has been admitted to hospital for tests as a “precautionary step” as his symptoms persist.

– April 6: Downing Street says Mr Johnson’s condition has worsened and he is moved to St Thomas’ Hospital’s intensive care unit.

– April 7: Downing Street says the PM’s condition remains “stable” and he is in “good spirits”. He is later moved from intensive care back to the ward.

– April 12: Mr Johnson is discharged from hospital and will continue his recovery at Chequers, Downing Street says.

The hospital death toll of people who have tested positive in the UK passes the 10,000 mark.

– April 30: In his first Downing Street press conference since being admitted to hospital, Mr Johnson says the country is now “past the peak of this disease”.

– May 4: It is announced the first NHS Nightingale field hospital – at London’s ExCeL centre – will be placed on standby.

– May 5: The UK’s declared death toll from coronavirus rises to more than 32,000, passing Italy’s total and becoming the highest in Europe.

– May 10: Mr Johnson announces the first easing of England’s lockdown, telling people they are allowed to sunbathe in parks and leave the house to exercise more than once a day.

– May 18: Everyone aged five and over is made eligible to be tested for coronavirus if they are showing symptoms, which are expanded to included a loss of taste or smell.

– May 22: Reports suggest Mr Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings allegedly broke the Government’s lockdown rules when he was spotted at his parents’ property in Durham, where he was recovering from coronavirus symptoms after travelling from his London home with his wife, who also fell ill, and son.

– May 23: A second eyewitness tells newspapers they saw Mr Cummings a week earlier in Barnard Castle, a popular tourist location 30 miles away from Durham, during the period he was believed to be self-isolating.

– May 25: Mr Cummings defends his actions at a press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, saying he believes he behaved “reasonably” and does not regret his actions.

– May 28: NHS Test and Trace officially launches across England with the help of 25,000 contact tracers, while an accompanying app is still delayed by several weeks.

Mr Johnson announces groups of up to six are allowed to meet outside.

– May 30: Professor Jonathan Van-Tam says Britain is facing a “very dangerous moment” with the easing of lockdown restrictions.

– June 1: Lockdown measures are eased, with schoolchildren in England in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 returning to the classroom.

– June 16: The cheap steroid dexamethasone is hailed as a major breakthrough as a study suggests it is the first drug to reduce deaths from coronavirus.

– June 19: The UK’s chief medical officers agree to downgrade the coronavirus alert level from four to three after a “steady” and continuing decrease in cases in all four nations.

– July 3: A list of 73 countries and territories where English tourists can visit without self-isolating on their return is published, including popular short-haul destinations such as Spain, France and Italy.

– July 4: Pints are poured in pubs and couples finally say “I do” as lockdown restrictions are eased across England.

– July 17: Mr Johnson eases the work-from-home guidance as he sets out plans for a “significant return to normality” in England from as early as November.

– July 24: Face coverings become mandatory in shops across England, with £100 fines for people who flout the rules.

– July 30: People who test positive for coronavirus or display symptoms must now self-isolate for 10 days as Mr Hancock warns of a “second wave starting to roll across Europe”.

– August 3: The Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme launches, with restaurants, pubs and cafes offering half-price meals to diners during August.

– August 24: The Prime Minister issues a plea to parents to send their children back to the classroom when schools reopen.

– September 8: Mr Hancock warns of a possible second peak following a “concerning” rise in the number of cases.

Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from September 14, ministers announce, as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

– September 17: Baroness Dido Harding denies that the Test and Trace system is failing but acknowledges that a surge in demand is significantly outstripping capacity.

– September 18: Mr Johnson warns that a second wave of coronavirus has arrived in the UK.

The R number – representing the number of people an infected person will pass the virus to – is estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning cases could rise very quickly.

– September 21: Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance tells a televised briefing the UK could see 50,000 cases a day by mid-October and a daily death toll of 200 or more a month later unless urgent action is taken.

– September 22: The Prime Minister prepares to announce new restrictions including a 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants in England from September 24.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove recommends that people now work from home if able to do so.

– September 24: A total of 6,634 new coronavirus cases are recorded, the highest single-day figure so far since the outbreak began.

– October 12: The Prime Minister launches a three-tier system of local alert levels for England, with the Liverpool City Region the only area to be placed in the Tier 3 – very high – category.

– October 31: Mr Johnson announces that people in England will be told to stay at home for four weeks as the country is placed under another national lockdown, with the closure of hospitality and non-essential shops.

– November 24: The UK Government and devolved administrations agree on plans allowing families to reunite over the festive period by forming “Christmas bubbles”.

– December 2: England’s national lockdown comes to an end and is replaced by a strengthened three-tier system.

Meanwhile, the UK becomes the first country in the world to approve the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech.

– December 8: Grandmother Margaret Keenan, 90, becomes the first patient in the world to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab as the NHS launches its biggest ever vaccine campaign.

– December 14: Mr Hancock tells MPs a new strain of coronavirus has been identified in southern England, with the number of cases involving the new variant “increasing rapidly”.

Tougher restrictions are imposed on London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire following “very sharp, exponential rises” in cases.

– December 19: The Prime Minister cancels Christmas for almost 18 million people across London and eastern and south-east England by moving them into a newly created Tier 4 for two weeks – effectively returning to the lockdown rules of November – after scientists warn of the rapid spread of the new variant VUI 202012/01.

– December 30: It is announced that an additional 20 million people in England will move to the tightest restrictions, making a total of 44 million in Tier 4, or 78% of the population.

Meanwhile, a Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University and AstraZeneca is approved for use in the UK.

– January 4 2021: The Covid-19 alert level should be raised to five – the highest setting – a joint recommendation from the UK’s chief medical officers says.

Later that evening, in a televised address, Mr Johnson announces a third national lockdown for England which will see schools shut to most students and people urged to stay at home to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by surging coronavirus infections.

– January 9 2021: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh receive their Covid-19 vaccinations and take the unusual step of making a health matter public.

– January 19 2021: An estimated one in eight people in England had Covid-19 by December last year, according to antibody data from the Office for National Statistics’ Covid-19 Infection Survey.

– January 26 2021: According to the Government’s measure of the death toll, more than 100,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began.

– February 2 2021: Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday during the first national lockdown in April, dies after testing positive for Covid-19.

– February 15 2021: Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the travel ban “red list” must now quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for 10 days.

– February 20 2021: The Prime Minister pledges that all adults will be offered a vaccine by July 31, while those aged 50 and over will be offered one by April 15.

– February 22 2021: Mr Johnson announces a road map out of lockdown, with a four-step plan to gradually ease England’s restrictions by June 21.

– March 8 2021: All children in all year groups return to classrooms in England, with outdoor after-school sports and activities also allowed to restart.

People are also allowed to have socially distanced one-to-one meetings with others outdoors in a public space.

– March 17 2021: NHS leaders warn there will be a “significant reduction” in vaccine supply for four weeks from March 29 due to a delay in deliveries from India and the need to retest a batch of 1.7 million doses. The Health Secretary says the vaccination programme remains “on track” to meet the Government’s targets.

Meanwhile, European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen threatens to block the export of vaccines to the UK amid an ongoing row over the supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

– March 19 2021:The Prime Minister receives his first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.

– March 20 2021: The Government announces that half of the UK’s adult population – some 26,853,407 people aged 18 and over – have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, as of March 19.