A year has now passed since people across the UK were first advised by government to work from home and limit travel as coronavirus began to take hold.
The novel coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
Since then it has changed lives across the globe unrecognisably.
In the UK there have been 143,259 deaths where covid is on the death certificate. More than 4.2 million cases have been confirmed. However, since the rollout of the vaccination programme some 24.4 million people have received at least one jab.
On 16 March 2020, people were told to work from home wherever possible while everyone was told to “avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues”, to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
A week later, on 23 March 2020, the UK’s first lockdown would begin.
As we move towards the continued lifting of restrictions we take a look at some of the key moments over the past 12 months.
On March 12 there were 11 reported cases for Kent and Medway. Across the UK 590 people were confirmed as positive. Ten patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had died.
On March 16 a public briefing was held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson where he has advised people to avoid all ‘unnecessary’ social contact.
In the conference the PM said the advice was for people to work from home if possible, avoid pubs, clubs, and theatres and for any person with symptoms the entire household should self isolate for 14 days.
The conference also said those over 70, people with significant health conditions and pregnant women should also begin self isolating in a matter of days -by the weekend – for a 12 week period to ‘shield’ them from the virus.
As panic set in people began to strip shelves bare in supermarkets.
Photos taken by Frank Leppard in Tesco Westwood showed shelves stripped of goods such as toilet rolls, fruit, veg, beans and pasta.
But the community also rallied to help others. Numerous facebook pages, including New Thanet Chat, had posts advising those in self isolation who needed help with shopping or other errands to let the community know so arrangements could be made.
The Broadstairs facebook page also had a pinned post where people could ask for help. Dozens of people posted to the page to offer their services.
Dreamland was among businesses announcing doors would stay shut in light of government advice to avoid social contact.
By March 17, Sandwich Tech had sent home Year 7 pupils due to a confirmed case. Dozens of schools would soon follow suit.
Non essential district and county council meetings are cancelled. On March 18 head teachers start taking the decision to shut schools. Venues such as Margate Winter Gardens also close.
Government then announces all schools will shut from March 20 to all pupils except those of key workers or pupils classed as vulnerable.
Hospitality and leisure venues are ordered to shut up shop from March 20 with only takeaway services allowed.
Financial support packages are announced.
On March 23 Lockdown 1 is announced.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced ‘national emergency’ measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
In a speech to the nation the PM said gatherings of more than two people – excluding those who live together – would be dispersed and people will only be able to go out to exercise alone, shop for essentials, travelling to necessary work that cannot be done at home, travelling to help a vulnerable person and picking up essential medical goods.
Police had powers to enforce these rules. There will be fines for flouting the rules.
All non-essential shops were told to close. All social gatherings, except funerals, were halted. Parks would remain open for exercise but groups will be dispersed.
By that day 335 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) had died.
Intensive care beds at East Kent Hospitals Trust sites are increased from 33 to 132 by mid April as the work to deal with coronavirus cases continued.
Additional equipment, including ventilators, was sourced and more wards were converted in preparation for an expected increase in patients.
A donation of £4,500 is made by County Councillors Barry Lewis and Karen Constantine to ensure the continued running of Our Kitchen on the Isle of Thanet during the coronavirus emergency.
The Kitchen, run by Sharon Goodyer, was organising food collections from FareShare Kent and through donations from businesses to redistribute to food banks and emergency help projects such as The Gap in Broadstairs and the Ramsgate Salvation Army.
Thanet council sets up a covid helpline.
On March 26 the government made new public health regulations strengthening the police enforcement powers in England to ensure people stay at home and avoid non-essential travel. A self-employment grant package is announced.
Thanet council launched a mental health campaign which includes a website with help numbers.
The community swings into action, fundraising for NHS charities, making PPE for staff and caring for vulnerable residents. Children begin putting rainbow posters in their windows at home and at schools.
There is shock and grief at the news of nurse Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother nurse and mum-of-three Aimee O’Rourke’s death on April 2 after contracting covid.
Westgate crafters including Lorraine Hambidge begin making hundreds of washbags for NHS staff.
Boris Johnson is taken into hospital after contracting covid.
April 7 pharmacies in Thanet, and across the country, say they are facing unprecedented demand and staff shortages,
Staff at Pierremont Pharmacy in Broadstairs and Newington Pharmacy were at ‘breaking point’ said Kent Group manager Doc Atherton.
Six Ramsgate Town Council staff, with input from town clerk Richard Styles, and community volunteers including Councillor Becky Wing, supply necessities at sites across the isle using Radford House – the former fire station in Effingham Street – as a central depot.
They deliver more than 14 tonnes of food in less than a fortnight.
Kent Police issued 53 fines for breaches of government public health regulations under the Coronavirus Act between March 27 and April 13.
A total of 3,203 fines were issued in England in the same timeframe.
In April staff at the NHS Nightingale hospital in London successfully treat and discharge their first coronavirus patients.
More than 300 temporary staff members help in East Kent Hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak.
The number includes more than 100 doctors, nurses, midwifes, pathologists, pharmacists and therapists, as well as more than 60 people who have recently retired.
On April 30 PM Boris Johnson announces there will be a ‘road map’ with a number of options for a phased moving of ‘various parts of the UK’ out of lockdown.
At the daily government briefing Mr Johnson said the country was ‘past the peak’ of the coronavirus pandemic but any move out of the restrictions had to guided by science so as not to create a second wave of infections.
Thanet foodbanks are faced with massive increases in demand for help while also coping with shortages of stock during the coronavirus crisis.
Dreamland gives notice of redundancy to 52 staff due to the continued covid closure
On May 9 police officers moved on a massive 850 people from Thanet beaches. Police ‘engaged and moved on’ the huge number of people breaking restrictions on public life in place to flatten the spread of coronavirus.
May 10 – Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined three steps to easing restrictions.
The steps are:
Step 1 – For those who cannot work at home, the PM said they are now actively encouraged to go back to work. This would include those in construction and manufacturing. Social distancing must be maintained and all efforts to avoid public transport should be made. New guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure is being established.
:Unlimited exercise with the PM saying people can “sit in the sun, drive to other destinations, play sports with members of your own household.” Social distancing must be maintained. Fines will be increased for anyone flouting guidelines.
Step 2 -From June 1: A possible phased reopening of shops and primary pupils from reception, year one and year six, going back into schools. The PM also mentioned those due to take exams should also get some time with their teachers.
Step 3- From July at the earliest: The hope to reopen some hospitality venues and other public places as long as social distancing can be maintained.
A discussion by county councillors about protective personal equipment needs in Kent revealed the struggle being faced by care home staff and residents with Grosvenor Court in Cliftonville home suffering a tragic 17 covid-related deaths in the previous month.
Nationally, data from the Office for National Statistics showed the crisis is countrywide with 12,526 care home residents dying with covid cited or suspected between March 2 and May 1, registered up to May 9. Of these 8,312 deaths were in care homes with 4,214 residents dying in other settings such as hospitals.
Hot weather sees visitors flocking to Thanet beaches. The council opened a number of public toilets. This followed complaints of people defecating and urinating on beaches and other properties.
Members of the Design Technology department at Chatham & Clarendon School in Ramsgate scooped the UK’s top lockdown DIY project award.
The team were voted for as lockdown heroes by thousands of Telegraph readers.
Industrious staff at the school set up a production line to create visors for NHS staff and other frontline workers.
A relaxation of the restrictions on public life to reduce the spread of coronavirus means groups of up to six people from different households can meet in gardens and private outdoor spaces, maintaining social distancing, from June 1.
There is a phased reopening of schools for early years, Reception, Years One and Six from June 1 and face to face time for secondary students in Years 10 and 12 from June 15.
The June 1 date sees the reopening of outdoor retail and markets and car showrooms and from June 15 non-essential retail with Covid secure measures.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has appealed to the public not to attend gatherings and demonstrations in response to organised Black Lives Matter protests.
Two gathering go ahead in Thanet and are peaceful, with the only arrest being former councillor Ian Driver on charges of criminal damage.
More Summer events are cancelled, Thanet council continues to co-ordinate local grant schemes for businesses hit by the restrictions.
Thanet council says some 40,000 people flocked to Margate Main Sands on June 25 and another 22,000 travelled to Viking Bay – four times it usual 5,000 capacity.
The authority says resources were stretched with the “unprecedented” demand and an approach would be made to government for more support.
The statement followed brawls, mountains of litter and overcrowding on beaches across the isle as visitors wanted to get out in the sunshine.
Bars, pubs and restaurants reopen on July 4 with covid measures in place following an easing of the coronavirus restrictions.
However, there are many changes to how venues can operate with social distancing requiring at least a one metre space, two metres ideally, between people, increased hygiene, cleaning and sanitising routines and a new law making gatherings of groups of more than 30 people, except for the limited circumstances as set out in law, illegal.
In a blow to many pubs and those in the performance and music industry venues are not allowed to host live performances, including drama, comedy and music.
The directors of Public Health in Kent and Medway say there had not been significant covid infection spikes across the county and there were no plans to lockdown any part of Kent or Medway.
In Kent there were 5,623 recorded cases and in Thanet 690 covid cases had been recorded.
Government announces it plans for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to run in August. Some 80% of hospitality firms stopped trading in April and 1.4 million hospitality workers were furloughed – the highest proportions of any sector.
To encourage people to return to eating out at restaurants the Government’s new Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme would provide a 50% reduction, up to £10 per person, for sit-down meals in cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August.
A covid testing station opens at the car park on the Manston airport terminal site.
Waste and recycling centres open with a booking system.
Relaxation of the Covid restrictions did not include viable options for small live music venues like Elsewhere at The Centre in Margate and Ramsgate Music Hall. The gig economy continues to suffer as do cinemas and theatres.
East Kent Hospitals carries out a programme to rapidly test all 9,000 staff for Covid-19 within the next five days.
The programme is part of an on-going package of measures to help avoid Covid transmission within the Trust’s hospitals, to keep patients, trust staff and the wider community safe.
The programme was in response to the high number of inpatient deaths, over the month with more than twice as many deaths from covid as the next highest trust.
There are 429 deaths recorded across East Kent Hospitals Trust (up to July 16) with 12 deaths recorded between July 10-16.
A rise in Covid infections prompts the government to postpone plans for businesses such as casinos, bowling alleys and for indoor performances to reopen from August 1.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said weddings with up to 30 people would also not be able to go ahead although ceremonies could still take place.
Redundancies across large and small businesses continue.
East Kent Hospitals Trust predicts a spend of more than £60 million for Covid costs covering 2020/21- including on preparations for a local ‘surge’ of the virus and for new 30-bed wards at QEQM in Margate and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.
Government announced a series of tough new enforcement measures targeting the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions.
Fines for repeatedly not wearing face coverings where mandated were significantly and on the spot fines for hosting or facilitating illegal gatherings of more than 30 people introduced.
Fines double to a maximum of £3,200 for those who repeatedly flout face covering rules and new fines are introduced for people hosting raves or other unlawful gatherings of more than 30 people.
The announcement came as a number of remaining culture, sport, leisure and business sectors will be permitted to reopen including indoor theatres, music and performance venues.
Redundancy consultations held for Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal hospitality staff. Redundancies announced at Kent School of English.
Eat Out to Help Out is hailed a success.
A government announcement confirms gatherings of more than six people in homes, parks, pubs and restaurants will be banned from Monday, September 14.
The move is prompted by a rise in cases with almost 3,000 new positive tests on just one day. At the height of the pandemic there were around 6,000 new cases each day. In July this dropped to below 1,000.
Schools again have to send home year groups and bubbles due to positive cases.
New restrictions are announced
Office workers who can work from home to do so. If homeworking is not possible, such as in retail and construction, people are urged to continue to go to work.
From Thursday September 24 all pubs, bars and restaurants operate table service only and close at 10pm. The same will apply to takeaways – though deliveries can continue after 10pm.
Face covering use extended to staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles and staff and customers in hospitality venues except when seated to eat and drink
Tightening the ‘rule of six’ with only 15 guests allowed for wedding ceremonies and receptions. The limit of 30 for funerals remains unchanged.
Cancellation of the October 1 reopening date for business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events.
In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, Covid-secure guidelines become legal obligations.
The measures are in response to the growing rate of Covid-19 infections and the rising R rate
A new rule is introduced on September 28 meaning people are fined if they do not self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, or are contacted by Test and Trace.
Distressed families are unable to visit their relatives in some residential care homes as a second round of restrictions are introduced at sites across Thanet and nationally.
The shielding measures, brought in at the start of the pandemic, were eased from July but rising infection rates in September prompted a number of homes to reinstate them.
Plea for help from Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal operator Your Leisure and covid forces the threat of permanent closure.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the country would be covered by a three- tiered system of local Covid Alert Levels – set at medium, high, and very high.
The “medium” alert level, which covered most of the country including Kent, consists of the national measures. This includes the Rule of Six and the closure of hospitality at 10pm.
Covid testing site set up at Dreamland car park
Seven Thanet arts, music and performance venues are among more than 1,000 across the country to receive grants from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
COVID-19 Street Wardens are introduced in Thanet’s high streets and town centres,
Thanet council says the COVID-19 Street Wardens will help to support a safe trading environment for local businesses and customers in the district.
Palace Cinema in Broadstairs prepares to reopen on October 30
England-wide restrictions come into force on Thursday, November 5.
The PM, along with chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, said the new round of restrictions are introduced in a bid to stop the rising spread of coronavirus.
The restrictions are due to be in force across the country until December 2, Local businesses speak of their devastation over the latest round of lock down measures.
Financial aid from government is extended
Government orders 40 million doses of a new Covid vaccine being produced by pharmaceutical firm Pfizer
Covid rates in Thanet continue to show a rise with 312 positive tests recorded for the seven days to November 6 – a rise of 99 on the previous seven days, according to government data
The figures from government and the Kent County Council dashboard show Thanet has 200.8 weekly cases per 100,000 people (for the week up to November 2), second highest in the county. Swale has the highest rates at 230.5 weekly cases per 100,000 people.
School’s continue to send home year groups due to covid cases. Thanet council shuts 10 public toilets due to latest round of restrictions.
Kent Public Health data shows Thanet at 477 cases per 100,000 people (as of November 22), down from 510.8 per 100,000 (as of November 16)
Kent and Medway is placed in Tier 3 Covid restrictions as the country comes out of ‘lockdown’ on December 2.
The strictest tier is applied to the county as weekly covid rates for Swale and Thanet were currently highest in the country, with Medway also recording an increasing rate.
Tier allocations to be reviewed every 14 days but government says the system will be in place until the end of March.
Anger and bewilderment is expressed by hospitality business owners in Thanet as they face more months of crushing closures or are restricted to takeaway and deliveries.
Pubs, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, indoor attractions and soft play areas were among the businesses bearing the brunt of the restrictions as the country moved from lockdown to tier 3 on December 2.
The first COVID-19 vaccine for the UK, developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, is given approval for use following a thorough review carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
An asymptomatic testing site is set up at Ramsgate Port.
The NHS begins vaccinating patients against coronavirus at dozens of hospital hubs from December 8.
The weekly rate of Covid positive tests per 100,000 people drops in Thanet – the only county district to do so according to Kent County Council data on December 10.
The figures, which are for 30 November to 6 December, show Thanet as having 400.9 per 100,000, a drop of 74.7 on the previous seven days.
Rates in other districts across Kent show rises with Swale again going above 600 per 100,000 at 611 – an increase of 35.3 on the previous week.
GP services in Kent and Medway join the biggest vaccination programme in NHS, starting on Tuesday 15 December.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirms to MPs that a new variant of coronavirus has been identified which may be associated with the faster spread in the South East of England.
He said on December 14 that over 1,000 cases with this variant had been identified, predominantly in the South of England although, cases have been identified in nearly 60 different local authority areas and numbers are increasing rapidly. It is later dubbed the Kent variant.
The furlough scheme is extended until the end of April
Government says covid restrictions are to be eased for Christmas but advises people to ‘keep it small, keep it short and keep it local.’
Kent remains in Tier 3 following the government review of restrictions on December 16.
The extension means hospitality businesses, such as pubs, restaurants, hotels and cinemas remain shut or operating a delivery/takeaway service only.
On December 19 it is announced that the South East, London and East of England are moved into new Tier 4 restrictions with a reversal of the relaxing of measures over Christmas and the closure of non-essential shops, indoor gyms, leisure and personal/beauty services.
Manston is opened as a lorry facility after the French Government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK due to fears over spreading the covid variant. The site is at capacity before Christmas and there is a community effort to make sure hauliers have food and necessities. The majority of the backlog is cleared by the end of the month.
The government accepts the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.
Questions are raised over why some primary schools in Kent were due to only open to vulnerable children and pupils whose parents are key workers while other areas were told to open the doors to all youngsters from January 4.
Thanet primary schools were due to open as originally planned, despite being in Tier 4 and having a higher covid rate per 100,000 than Tunbridge Wells where school opening has been delayed.
However, on January 4 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national ‘lockdown’ for England.
The lockdown was expected to last until at least mid-February.
The announcement came amid rising covid rates, hospital admissions and deaths. Mr Johnson said the number of Covid patients in English hospitals was some 27,000 – 40% higher than the first peak in April.
The UK’s chief medical officers advised a move from covid alert level 4 up to 5
A new round of business grants are announced
It is confirmed exams for GCSEs, A and AS Levels will not go ahead this Summer with students instead being graded in subjects by their teachers.
The government published its covid vaccination programme plan – with a pledge that by the end of January, everyone in England would be within 10 miles of a vaccination site or, for a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccine would be brought to them via mobile teams.
A covid vaccination hub opens at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Canterbury, for staff and volunteers working within the local Health and Social Care sector across east Kent.
Thanet GP hubs continue large vaccination surgeries.
The former Debenhams department store in Folkestone becomes the first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination centre in Kent.
The covid positive rate per 100,000 people in stands at 482.7 (as of January 18) compared to 613.7 seven days earlier. The UK rate is 421.3 and the Kent rate is 457.
In Kent and Medway, as of January 17, a total of 127,823 doses of vaccine had been given
Positive covid rates in Thanet are now at their lowest level since the end of October.
The government coronavirus dashboard shows a positive case rate of 158.5 per 100,000 people as of February 6 – below the UK average of 183.5.
For Thanet this is a drop in the seven day rolling rate of just over 54% on the previous week and a massive decrease on rates on December 20 which stood at 639 per 100,000.
There are four ‘variants of concern’ of the virus – where it has mutated, Three of these have been found in the UK, with the variant which originated in Kent the most wide sweeping since it was first identified in September.
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay is one of 63 MPs to sign a letter to say there would be ‘no justification’ for any legislative restrictions on public life to remain once all nine priority groups – meaning all those over 50 and those who are clinically vulnerable – have received a covid vaccination by the end of April.
The letter sent to Prime Minster Boris Johnson was from the Covid Recovery Group – made up of Conservative MPs who opposed the UK government’s decision to introduce another period of lockdown.
A large-scale covid vaccination centre opens at the Ramsgate Saga building which is currently up for sale.
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust is the leading provider and co-ordinator for Kent and Medway’s COVID-19 large-scale vaccination centres.
The covid positive rate for Thanet stands at 86 per 100,000 as of February 11.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson lays out the planned roadmap out of covid restrictions.
Calling it ‘cautious’ but ‘irreversible’ the PM said the country will take each step as a whole, signalling the end of the previous tier system.
Pledging to have vaccination offered to every person in the priority groups 5-9 by April 15 and to all adults by the end of July the PM said – subject to cases, hospitalisation and deaths data – there would be four steps and four main reviews.
Find the roadmap here https://theisleofthanetnews.com/2021/02/22/prime-minister-announces-cautious-but-irreversible-roadmap-out-of-covid-restrictions/
Youngsters across Thanet return to school from March 8 as part of the first phase of the government’s roadmap out of covid restrictions.
Secondary schools and colleges have already invited students in for rapid lateral flow tests, including at a ‘drive-through’ programme at St George’s secondary.
Schools and colleges have discretion to stagger the return of their students to facilitate testing and their safe return to the classroom.
A pilot scheme to make it easier for people with a learning disability to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was launched at the East Kent Mencap base in Ramsgate on March 11.
A row breaks out over the 1% pay increase proposed for NHS staff
Bookings for covid vaccines can now be made by those aged over 50 or in eligible medical groups. Book online or call 119.
The covid rate in Thanet stands at 38 per 100,000 as of March 10.