The UK COVID-19 Timeline: What has an Asian expat witnessed? – Part 2

UK COVID-19 English Language Articles

Hitherto, the three month lockdown had succeeded in reducing the number of new cases and deaths, so on 4th July the British government lifted some of the restrictions. I remember breathing a sigh of relief that “it’s finally all over” while watching the restaurants and shopping malls gradually re-opening and the city coming back to life again.

Britain, it seemed, had managed against all the odds to suppress COVID-19; unfortunately, as we were soon to find out, this was a false hope.

“Part 2” of my perspective of the pandemic from the point of view of a foreigner living in London continues the story. It relates first hand, based on my personal experience, how this country, which once seemed to have made a miraculous recovery, was once again engulfed by COVID-19.

Data such as the number of deaths were obtained from UK-GOV (UK government website).
Dates are written in the UK format – dd/mm/yyyy

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3.8.2020 ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme offers 50% off meals dining out in August

Total deaths: 41,306 / Daily deaths: 15 / Daily cases: 554

The government launched an “Eat Out to Help Out Campaign” during August to help reinvigorate the food service industry, which had been closed down completely during the lockdown. It was similar to Japan’s “Go To Campaign”.

  • The Government subsidizes 50% of food and drink costs at registered restaurants
  • The upper limit is £10 per person (about $13.5)
  • Alcohol excluded
  • Applies only on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays
  • The applicable period is during the month of August
  • Customers pay for meals at the discounted rate, and the restaurant claims the balance back later

This campaign actually worked quite well. According to HM Revenue and Customs, 49,000 eligible restaurants, pubs and cafes nationwide received government reimbursement totalling £849m (about $1,146m) for the month, exceeding the original budget by more than two-thirds.

UK COVID-19 pub
A pub during the campaign

But there was a ‘down side’ to this success story. It’s thought that 8-17% of the ‘clusters’ that heralded the start of the second wave of COVID-19 were a direct result of this campaign – since people ate out more than usual with family and friends to take advantage of the opportunity.

Thus, ironically, it was at once both a great marketing campaign and at also widely criticized for increasing the number of newly infected people and significantly accelerating the second wave of infection.

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7.9.2020 UK records highest daily total of coronavirus cases since early June

Total deaths: 41,624 / Daily deaths: 15 / Daily cases: 3,863

The number of new cases in the UK on this day was 3,863, the highest number since June – a sure sign that the second wave of COVID-19 had arrived.

With this, the Minister of Health Matt Hancock officially expressed concern about the second wave and announced that he would tighten penalties for any “gathering” after September that violated the rules.

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24.9.2020 More than one million people download the government’s new contact-tracing app – and new regulations come into force

Total deaths: 42,025 / Daily deaths: 35 / Daily cases: 7,611

The COVID-19 tracking app “NHS COVID-19“, developed by the British government in collaboration with Google and Apple, has been released. This app uses Bluetooth, and by registering personal information, you can find out the infection status of the area where you live. And if you have recently had close contact with an infected person, you will be alerted via a message from the system.

The app can also warn us if we are at risk because an infected person happened to be eating and drinking at the time and in the same place as we were. The way this works is because it’s obligatory for everyone to have the specific QR code scanned at the entrance to the pub or restaurant before being allowed in.

This is the app’s screen (after ‘Tire4’ has been introduced)

It shows the alert level
It says “Possible COVID-19 Exposure”

I’ve been to central London several times since I downloaded the app, and whenever I came back home I had a good chance of getting an alert like this. You might also receive the message “Don’t worry”, but all the same I personally found it a frightening experience.

This was also the time when the new COVID-19 related regulations started. Restaurants, pubs and nightclubs were forbidden from conducting business after 10 pm.

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14.10.2020 PM unveils three-tier COVID-19 restrictions for England

Total deaths: 43,536 / Daily deaths: 115 / Daily cases: 19,701

The level of COVID-19 infection varies from region to region, and the government has introduced a three-stage tier system to clarify the alert status of each area of the country.

  • Tier 1-Medium: You can meet up to six people from other households both indoors and outdoors
  • Tier 2-High: You can meet up to six people from other households -but only outdoors
  • Tier 3-Very high: You can meet up to six people from other households only in a public park or playground – not in a private garden

This is only a brief summary of the regulation; as a whole, it came in for a great deal of public criticism because it was very difficult to understand and contained sweeping generalizations; the whole of Greater London, for example, was classified as “Tier 2” at this time.

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5.11.2020 England goes into the second national lockdown

Total deaths: 49,235 / Daily deaths: 375 / Daily cases: 23,742

Despite the introduction of the Tier system, the number of patients and deaths have continued to grow daily, and England has been compelled to enter into second period of total lockdown for a limited period of four weeks until 2nd December 2020. Separate rules apply to Scotland, Ireland and Wales; at this point, only England has been locked down.

What distinguished this second lockdown from the first was that schools still remained open as usual – even though restaurants were closed again for the second time in just a few months.

The UK government also decided to extend the furlough scheme that had been introduced during the first lockdown. It guaranteed 80% of the wages of employees forced to take leave up to £2,500 (about $3,375) per month.

Lockdown morning
The morning after entering the lockdown

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