The UK COVID-19 Timeline: What has an Asian expat witnessed? – Part 1

UK covid-19 timelineEnglish Language Articles
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6.5.2020 The UK becomes the worst-hit country in Europe

Total deaths: 31,394 / Daily deaths: 461 / Daily cases: 3,823

The total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the UK exceeds that of Italy, and Britain becomes the worst-hit country in Europe. From that time onward, the government stopped providing comparisons with other countries during the daily TV briefing.

Not only the United Kingdom but also other European countries now impose lock-downs to control COVID-19 infection, but the degree of severity varies from country to country, and the following are still permitted in the United Kingdom;

  • Shopping for daily necessities (no limit on the number of times)
  • Going out for exercise once a day
  • Commuting to the workplace – unless you can work from home

It was very helpful to be allowed to exercise, if only just once a day. I was able to relieve my stress by walking in the park.

UK covid-19
Empty shopping mall
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11.5.2020 Masks are mandatory indoors and on public transport

Total deaths: 33,268/ Daily deaths: 308 / Daily cases: 3,577

The government changed its advice to say that masks should from now on be worn in enclosed spaces. Perhaps it was around the beginning of April, when I was wearing a mask to prevent infection, that I found myself being overtly avoided just because “Asians are wearing masks”.

British people are not in the habit of wearing masks, and the government was very reluctant to make them mandatory, arguing that they would not be effective. As a Japanese, long accustomed to the idea of wearing a mask as a prophylactic measure, I found their attitude somewhat strange, since COVID-19 was known to be a ‘droplet infection’. So, I was relieved when they finally did decide to make the masks mandatory indoors and on public transport.

At the same time, the government also provided a roadmap for the gradual release of lockdown restrictions and announced in June that it would gradually start re-opening facilities, including schools.

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1.6.2020 School finally opens

Total deaths: 38,268/ Daily deaths: 135 / Daily cases: 1,438

Finally, the schools are open again as the first step towards easing the lockdown. In addition, a “6 person rule” has been introduced, allowing up to 6 people to meet in open spaces such as parks and gardens.

UK covid-19
People started going out

The “6 person rule” greatly increased the number of things I can do such as having a picnic and BBQ with friends. It made me come to appreciate the importance of freedom and leading a normal life.

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15.6.2020 Retail stores for clothes and miscellaneous goods open

Total deaths: 39,786 / Daily deaths: 70 / Daily cases: 985

With the opening of retail stores, zoos, churches, etc., consumers who had patiently endured the lockdown rushed out to the shops in the centre of the city, and long queues formed in front of the shops.

Also, because it was the holiday season in the UK, people from all over the country gathered on the south coast; the beaches were filled with people all crowded together ‘higgledy piggledy’, ignoring the requirements of social distancing.

UK beach

I remember seeing the scene on the evening news and worrying that the infection would begin to spread once more, and the lockdown would have to be implemented all over again.

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4.7.2020 Some parts of the lockdown rules were eased to open pubs restaurants

Total deaths: 40,777/ Daily deaths: 33 / Daily cases: 399

The government has decided to remove some of the regulations because the number of deaths per day has levelled off considerably – maybe due to the lockdown effect.

It’s very difficult to strike a balance between economic health and the health of the nation, and after a lockdown of about four months, many business were on the brink of bankruptcy; measures to ensure economic recovery were urgently needed. As a result, pubs, restaurants and beauty salons were gradually allowed to start re-opening.

UK covid-19
I myself was one of these happy shoppers

Social distancing and masks were still required, but I for one felt relieved because it seemed to me that normal life was finally being resumed.

But, as you know, this is very far from the end of the story of COVID-19 in the UK!

End of the first half

I date “the end of the first half” to the time when the first lockdown measures began to be eased here in the UK.

Back in January, when I first heard the news that “a virus called COVID-19 has begun in China and the number of infected people is increasing in Japan” my thoughts naturally turned to family and friends in Japan. However as far as its immediate threat to the UK was concerned, I thought of it as an event somewhere else – a long way away, “in a distant place”, and “happening to other people”.

Even as it began to rage in Italy and other European countries, it was literally “on the other side of the water”, and we in the UK would still be safe!

The situation worsened drastically in mid-March, and when, even after entering the lockdown, the number of infected people and deaths did not stop, and it became like living in a “bio-hazard” world.

For Westerners, both Chinese and Japanese are lumped together ‘willy nilly’ as “Asians.” When discrimination against Asians began – around February – March time – it was the first time since I arrived in England that I felt “I am afraid to go out.”

I was also worried about my husband who was commuting by tube and hoped that he would return safely every day.
As the number of patients in Europe and the United States exceeded that in Asia, discrimination against Asians diminished.

I felt relieved by this, and also by the partial easing of lockdown measures in July.
But inexorably, the next big wave is fast approaching; it’s only a matter of time before the UK will be engulfed once again …………..

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