Great Britain was banned a year ago.
Although most people, most of the time before, were deeply concerned about what was happening, some people on the internet just didn’t believe what they were told.
Twelve months later, we look back on the reactions of people across the UK when the virus first appeared in China and then spread in isolated outbreaks – before cases skyrocketed and imposed the strictest restrictions on free movement in UK history .
And analysis reveals a number of things – from the ridiculousness and disbelief some expressed first over what some thought was “just the flu” to the concern that spread over the weeks as the UK caught the virus has been.
Perhaps most striking is the farsightedness of many of the comments made by common people – with discussions on social media about what the government should do to protect schools and the NHS that at times are way ahead of what actually happened.
Coronavirus has changed society here and around the world.
This is a look at what people were thinking on social media as the virus approached our shores.
- 1 The first reports of the virus outbreak in China
- 2 The virus arrives in the UK
- 3 Money went into finding a vaccine
- 4 Hazmat suits on the streets of Britain
- 5 Global deaths are increasing – but few cases in the UK
- 6 Hand sanitizer starts to run
- 7 The first deaths in Britain
- 8 More cases are confirmed in the UK
- 9 Panic buying in the supermarkets
- 10 Stay home if you have a persistent cough or high temperature
- 11 Further daily services are suspended
- 12 “This is scare tactics”
- 13 Should schools be closed?
- 14 The lock closes – but still anger over “false news”
- 15 Pubs and restaurants are closed
- 16 1.5 million people had to stay at home
- 17 The lockdown is announced by Boris Johnson
The first reports of the virus outbreak in China
On January 11th, a website informed readers of a “mysterious deadly virus” that had struck the city of Wuhan and was spreading at an accelerating pace.
We now know that the Chinese city got into a lockdown 12 days later, which served as a template for how the rest of the world would deal with the pandemic.
But at the time, the people of Britain had heard little – and some were skeptical of what they were being told.
“Mass hysteria!” said one person who commented on Facebook.
The virus arrives in the UK
In a statement, Professor Chris Whitty, a little-known public health official at the time, said: “We can confirm that two patients in England who are members of the same family have tested positive for coronavirus. The patients are receiving specialized NHS treatment, and so are we use infection control best practices to prevent the virus from spreading further.
“The NHS is very well prepared and used to treating infections. We are already working quickly to identify patient contacts and prevent further spread.
“We have prepared for novel coronavirus cases in the UK and have solid infection control measures in place to respond immediately. We continue to work closely with the World Health Organization and the international community as the outbreak in China develops to ensure that we are ready. ” for all eventualities. “
We now know that this was the beginning of a terrible outbreak that has so far killed more than 126,000 people.
But while the reaction on Facebook that day seems eye-opening in retrospect, few at the time, even in government, had any sense of how dire things were about to get.
“That’s it – time to try to scare everyone,” replied one person to a message about the first cases in the UK.
“Let’s go – get ready for scare tactics,” said another.
However, people have already expressed concern that flights from China to the UK are still allowed.
“The borders should have been closed,” said one person.
“Should have closed the borders immediately – no one in or out,” said another.
“As if we don’t have enough health problems,” said one person.
“We need tighter border controls while this is going on and proper airport health checks for everyone.”
This is a subject that was discussed many months later.
Meanwhile, advice that is commonplace today has been voiced by people who were concerned about what was ahead of them.
“If we follow all the guidelines, we can all prevent the spread – share prevention, not the virus,” said one person.
“Get your hands on some Dettol and hand alcohol gel.”
But there was also worry when a person simply said, “It’s very scary.”
The NHS – an icon at the heart of British life for decades – has now grown its reputation beyond measure.
Back in January of last year, long before the clapping on the doorstep, people were praising the NHS as an organization that would be able to deal with what might lie ahead.
“Don’t underestimate the NHS,” said one person. “They are soldiers.”
Because of the events abroad, it was already clear that something very serious was likely to be on the way here.
By the next day, February 1, rumors had raged that part of Paddington Station in London had been cordoned off after employees told commuters of a “suspected virus outbreak” that had hospitalized two people.
The global death toll had risen by 45 to 310 overnight – and more people were concerned about what was going to happen.
Days later, it was revealed that the Paddington patients actually did not have coronavirus – but before that became clear, opinion at the time ranged from disbelief to serious concern.
“Scare tactics at its best,” said one Facebook user, while another put it bluntly and said: “That bores me now.”
Another, much more concerned person saw it differently and said, “This should be taken seriously – don’t underestimate how this will spread.”
Money went into finding a vaccine
By February 3, Health Secretary Matthew Hancock said the government would pour fresh money into developing a vaccine to fight the virus.
It was announced that infectious disease experts would use £ 20 million in UK government funding to embark on a six-month plan to manufacture a vaccine.
At that time, the official death toll in China was 361 and the global death toll was 432.
At that point there were only two cases left in the UK.
The response to news about the new online investment has been mixed.
One person simply said, “Not fast enough.”
Another, more personal message touched, but understandably did not understand how deadly the coronavirus crisis would soon become.
“They hope to have a vaccine in six months,” said the Facebook user. “£ 20 million for research.
“Every year in the UK 2,190 people die from motor neuron disease.
“And 150 years after the disease was first diagnosed, we still have no treatment or cure.
“If they spent that amount looking for a cure or treatment for MND, people like me and many others would have a chance to live and not desperately try to fight a losing battle against this terrible disease that is slowly becoming yours Deprived of skills of walking, talking, moving, swallowing and breathing. “
While those feelings were heartbreaking, the death toll from Covid-19 would ultimately be far worse than even these numbers.
Hospitals prepare for outbreaks
As of February 5, the number of cases was still no higher – the only confirmed patients were the two announced on January 31.
A newspaper reported that a hospital trust had told its board of directors that there were already plans in place to support staff responding to outbreaks of the infection.
“There will also be training to ensure that the clinical teams are well prepared,” the Trust said.
“The ongoing outbreak is an evolving situation and our teams are working closely with our partners to ensure that every response is coordinated and effective.”
It was a pretty technical statement, but one reader went wild on the news agency and said, “This is the way to create mass panic. Shame on you.”
These types of comments were indeed commonplace in the UK during the early stages of the pandemic – although news organizations reporting straightforward official data on the virus are still defamed today by some who believe Covid was blown up beyond measure been.
Some were furious with what they clearly thought was a non-news story.
But others began to ask more basic questions – how would that affect their daily lives?
One person asked, “Stupid question, but what about all the packages that come off eBay like they sneeze in the box and seal it, then it’s sent all over the world?”
The global death toll on February 5 was now 572.
But now there had been 27,463 cases worldwide – A massive jump to the 557 cases reported two weeks earlier.
Hazmat suits on the streets of Britain
February 15 was a day after Valentine’s Day, and life was still pretty ordinary for the vast majority of people.
However, that day, health officials in a Midlands town were seen wearing hazmat suits after reports that a man fell sick after returning from a trip to Hong Kong with his wife the previous day.
The reaction on the internet was relaxed, some even joked about it. One person quipped, “I don’t think anyone there has ever left the place, let alone gone to China.”
The story attracted a lot of news at the time, although no coronavirus cases are known to have ever been confirmed.
There have now been nine coronavirus cases in the UK. There have now been 69,052 cases worldwide.
And now there have been 1,670 deaths – up from 17 on Jan 22, when the accounting first started.
Global deaths are increasing – but few cases in the UK
On February 18, an operation in southeast England announced that it would be thoroughly cleaned following a suspected coronavirus case.
Public Health England later said the case was actually unrelated to the virus.
However, as with the Hazmat incident a few days earlier, authorities have warned of signs of the virus.
There was still reason to calm down in the UK as the total number of cases was still nine. There have been no deaths yet, and it wouldn’t be until March 2nd.
The story reached more than 40,000 people, with dozens of friends sharing the news – although there was no case.
Some were angry that the incident was even reported.
There have now been 75,152 cases and 2,010 deaths worldwide.
But at this point in time we in Britain were still in the equivalent of what was known as a mock war during World War II – the first eerie months of inactivity before the nightmare hit.
Hand sanitizer starts to run
In the ten days between February 18 and February 28, the number of cases in the UK rose steadily – from 10 on February 21 to 42 by February 28.
The supplies of hand sanitizer and face masks were slowly running out. One website reported that stocks were running low across the region.
One chemist said, “We can’t get hand sanitizer or face masks.
“We run out of face masks and we have noticed that the prices for these products have gone up.”
Another said, “I asked the staff to order some face masks because customers are asking for them and we are having trouble getting some.
Panic buying hadn’t hit supermarkets yet – but hand sanitizer was getting harder to find.
One Facebook user said online, “I saw a woman at Home Bargains clear about 20 bottles off the shelf.”
However, the gross insensitivity of some online companies was still clearly evident – although the global case number was now 84,122 and the death toll had reached 2,924.
One person summed up the callous demeanor of some online people by saying, “It will only kill the old and the weak – don’t worry.”
The first deaths in Britain
On March 2, an elderly woman who was already suffering from health problems became the first person in the UK to die after being diagnosed with the disease.
Some no doubt thought it might be an isolated incident.
Within a month, however There were 6,005 deaths – although many of them were initially not reported, but were only included in the records days or weeks later.
There have now been 108 cases in the UK. Globally, there were 90,377 and there were 3,118 deaths.
A report on a website reported on the various symptoms of Covid-19 and the common cold.
With the UK crisis not really in place, the online response to the situation has been calm and some news about the virus has been dismissed as an overreaction.
“Every day more people die on the streets, but cars are not banned,” said one person.
“I’m not rejecting it, I’m just trying to put it in the right light.”
Another common topic at the time was that Covid-19 was just the flu – which, along with pneumonia, had killed between 25,406 and 34,496 a year in the UK between 2001 and 2019.
“What they are not telling the world is that so far more than 90,000 have been infected, but of those more than 90,000, more than 50,000 have recovered and the rest are recovering,” one person said.
“Unfortunately there will also be a death rate that is very low. The flu statistics this year are still overshadowing the coronavirus numbers. I will be more afraid of the flu than of this coronavirus.”
Even at that point, health experts were saying it was actually far more deadly than flu and pneumonia – and The National Statistics Office later published data shows that the “mortality rate for Covid-19 is also significantly higher than the rate of influenza and pneumonia”.
Just over three weeks later, when many were still saying coronavirus was not a threat, people were told to stay in their homes for all but essential reasons.
More cases are confirmed in the UK
On March 6, two British Airways baggage handlers at Heathrow tested positive for coronavirus.
In the UK, 352 cases have now been reported – an increase of nearly 900 percent per week.
There had now been six deaths.
Online, however, some still weren’t concerned – and even appeared to be ditching the virus entirely.
One person said, “There’s a woman on my street with a cold – oh my god, let’s panic.”
But many others were more concerned about what was clearly becoming a serious situation.
“It’s worrying, but you won’t laugh here if you catch it,” said one.
Panic buying in the supermarkets
As of March 11, 25 deaths and 1,294 cases had been reported in the UK.
In the most incredulous scenes, the supermarkets ran out of staples such as toilet paper, pasta, canned vegetables and hand gel.
One person on Facebook summed up the mood and said, “I can’t understand why people panic and buy toilet rolls – what is it for?”
Another said, relieved, “I’m so glad I got toilet paper today.”
Concerns have also been raised about how to find out whether or not you have had Covid.
A Facebook user said, “Where are you being tested? There’s nowhere. So how do you know how many have the virus?”
The early testing regime was later criticized by some as insufficient for the size of the task.
A lot of people were still in a funky mood online.
“Oh wow,” said one. “Seven people I live with have a cold. So scared – I’d better get food and toilet paper for a year if I get a cough.”
Others accused the media of making what they considered non-history sensational.
“And all because they can no longer scare us with snow,” said one.
Stay home if you have a persistent cough or high temperature
By March 12, the government’s approach changed. Boris Johnson held a press conference on Downing Street – events that were fraught with journalists in the early days of the crisis – to say anyone with a persistent cough or high temperature had to self-isolate for a week.
There have now been 1,775 cases and 38 deaths in the UK, while the global death toll was now 5,443.
The reaction on the Internet has now gotten more serious – with fewer jokes. We were less than two weeks away from lockdown. However, the Cheltenham Festival took place March 10-13 with 251,684 attendees during that period.
Three thousand football fans were also allowed to play in the Champions League in Liverpool at home against Atletico Madrid – a game that attracted a total of 52,267 spectators – despite the Spaniards’ home stadium being closed to stop the virus that then swept across the Spanish capital .
On the same day as the game in Liverpool, the World Health Organization classified Covid-19 as a pandemic.
After Johnson spoke, people had a lot of questions – some said they couldn’t stay home.
“I can’t isolate myself,” said one, saying they had two children to feed and look after.
Another looked ahead to what might happen next and asked, “OK, so if we have to close everything, how are we going to do financially?”
Vacation wasn’t a word many had heard of by then.
During this week, the then almost unknown Sir Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific advisor, said in an interview If 60 percent of the population contract the virus, the UK could create “herd immunity” to Covid.
When more cases were confirmed in part of the south-east of England that day, a Facebook user said it was apparent the virus was spreading.
“We certainly don’t know where people who have been confirmed with the virus have been lately, so they most likely spread it further in the area,” they said.
Further daily services are suspended
Two days later, on March 14, some universities suspended face-to-face lectures as more organizations realized they needed to take action.
The UK death toll was now 76 and there have been 2,617 cases.
People could also see what was happening elsewhere.
Italy imposed a lockdown by March 9th when British ministers reportedly realized We too would be forced to take similar measures.
Following the university’s announcement, a Facebook user said: “I live in Italy and have seen how quickly things go wrong and would say that something like this underestimates a declared pandemic a little.”
“This is scare tactics”
The next day, March 15, a school in the southeast sent parents a letter informing them that one of their students had a suspected – unconfirmed – case of coronavirus.
The school said it would stay open for the time being, stressing that soap dispensers would be regularly refilled and monitored throughout the day to make sure there were enough supplies.
The UK death toll was now 108 – but some people were still convinced the media made it up.
“This is not even a story,” said a Facebook user that day.
“It’s not news. It’s scary.”
On the same day, another region reported that there are now 40 cases of the virus in their county.
“Shut up,” was one person’s blunt reply.
Should schools be closed?
On March 16, a regional website asked its readers whether schools should be closed now to protect children.
The question sparked an intense debate.
“Tough one,” said one reader.
“When schools close, who will take care of the children of doctors, nurses and caregivers who need to care for the most vulnerable and sick? Who pays the wages of those who cannot work and may lose their homes?” Perhaps the most vulnerable children and teachers shouldn’t stay home. Limit contact between children and the elderly in the meantime? “
Another said: “I am very undecided. I could look after my children if the school was closed so that luckily they would not have to be looked after by my grandparents, but I work in a nursing home so I work closely with people who those exposed to the highest risk. “
Even then – long before children went home for months to stop the virus from spreading – people realized how complicated the problem was.
“This is the toughest decision of all,” said one person.
“Not an easy solution and massively problematic for most in both cases. One way or another, we must all focus on restructuring our affairs in this country and adequately preparing for these flawed disaster scenarios and no one has a right handle on how you deal with it. “
“Do what every other country has done and close the school, but offer free childcare to workers who continue to work like nurses, doctors, supermarket workers, etc.,” one said.
Yet another said, “Children could be carriers of this virus and never get symptoms, but come home from school and pass it on. If they stop mass gatherings, they should definitely stop children from going to school.”
On March 17, the government announced that it would discourage mass gatherings.
By then, the UK death toll was 206.
The lock closes – but still anger over “false news”
Cases were reported across the county on a daily basis through March 19. An area news website announced two new cases at the local hospital trust that day.
But even at this point, four days before the lockdown, there were many who just wanted the media to shut up.
“Stop trying to scare people !!!!!!!!” said one reader.
“This is not news!” said another
“That scares you. You stir up civil unrest and should be prosecuted.”
The story only reported data from Public Health England – but that didn’t cut it for some.
“This is basically bogus news now,” said one reader.
“Nobody will know how many cases there are unless someone ends up in hospital or dies from it.
“We all have enough cause for concern. Why not publish news articles that are meant to inspire and encourage rather than add to current concern?”
Still others saw this attitude as completely wrong.
One said: “The hospitals are extremely overburdened and ambulances can now not get to people for hours!
“We have to be concerned and distance ourselves socially!”
The UK death toll at the time was 348.
Pubs and restaurants are closed
The next day, March 20, Boris Johnson ordered pubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas and restaurants to close.
BBC News filmed people going out for a final drinking hour that evening. Only a few spectators would then have noticed that the pubs would be closed again a year later.
Online media anger seemed to have been replaced by a debate about the rules themselves.
“It’s very sad, but the only decision under the circumstances,” said one person.
“Too many people are NOT following advice.”
“Boris is doing his best, giving him support and let’s do it,” said another.
But some wanted it to be firmer.
“Boris !!!” said one angry Facebook user.
“Lock the country now !!!
“Some use this time to travel to different counties and could spread the virus – which may unnecessarily burden our essential services. It is not a holiday !!!”
The UK death toll was now 457, down from six two weeks earlier.
The virus was practically out of control.
1.5 million people had to stay at home
On March 22nd, the government ordered 1.5 million people with complex health problems not to leave home for three months.
Boris Johnson warned the UK that we would be only a few weeks behind Italy – whose health crisis was heavily featured in the news as some hospitals ran out of beds to deal with the rising case and total death toll.
“The numbers are very strong and they are accelerating,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference at 5pm on Downing Street.
“We are only a few weeks – two or three – behind Italy.
“The Italians have excellent health systems. Yet their doctors and nurses are overwhelmed by the demand. The death toll in Italy is already in the thousands and rising.
“If we don’t act together, if we don’t make heroic and collective national efforts to slow the spread, it’s all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed. That’s why this country has taken the steps that made it to impose. ” Restrictions never seen before in peace or in war. “
He said schools would be closed tomorrow.
The UK death toll was now 752.
The online conversation was no longer about whether the virus was real – it was about whether the government was doing enough.
“You need a lockdown everywhere – nobody listens in the UK,” one person said after the press conference.
“That should have happened weeks ago,” said another.
“Lockdown now this week, with heavy fines if you fail for no reason, as do Spain, France and Italy,” said a third voice on Facebook. “The money can be paid for a vaccine – put your foot on Boris, be brave.”
“Whatever he’s doing, how many are listening?” asked one. “How many crowd in the supermarket?” How many go to the coast?
“How many more does Mother’s Day have?
“How much food and supplies do you have in your closets? Are the kids still playing with friends?”
The lockdown is announced by Boris Johnson
During the day of March 23, it became clear that the lockdown should be announced.
One city had long lines for McDonald’s at lunchtime when people lined up for one last Big Mac before the announcement.
“The world has gone mad !!!” said one stunned reader online.
Another, who read a report of more cases of the virus at his local hospital that day, said, “That’s it, folks. Stay home, cuddle your loved ones, and stay safe.”
Boris Johnson spoke on television that evening.
People were told they could only leave their homes for very limited purposes: shopping for basic necessities, doing some form of exercise daily, going to work and back when absolutely necessary, and for medical purposes.
All businesses except grocery stores and pharmacies should close. There shouldn’t be weddings, but funerals would happen anyway.
Libraries, gyms, places of worship and playgrounds would be closed.
Parks would remain open, but gatherings of more than two people were not allowed.
The Prime Minister said the police have the power to move people or punish those who ignore the rules.
“Let’s hope people can listen and the ban ends !!” said one person online.
“Unfortunately it is too wide at workplaces, etc.,” said another.
“What is considered essential? Are construction sites / offices etc closed?
“This is a very loose suspension, but nothing has really changed.
“People just don’t listen – they’ve already proven that.”
This turned out to be far from the mark. For much of the past year, the vast majority of people have followed the rules very closely.
The death toll that day had reached 938. By March 19, 2021 it had risen to 126,122.
According to Parliamentary figuresDas ist bereits mehr als ein Viertel der gesamten Zahl der Todesopfer in Großbritannien während des Zweiten Weltkriegs.