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The Coronavirus Hit Germany And The UK Just Days Apart But The Countries Have Responded Differently. Here’s How.


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The Coronavirus Hit Germany And The UK Just Days Apart But The Countries Have Responded Differently. Here’s How.

January 31: Chief medical officer Chris Whitty announces the first two UK cases.Public Health England says it is tracing people who have been in contact.Whitty says: “The NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections, and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had to prevent further spread.” February…

The Coronavirus Hit Germany And The UK Just Days Apart But The Countries Have Responded Differently. Here’s How. thumbnail
  • January 31: Chief medical officer Chris Whitty announces the first two UK cases.

    Public Health England says it is tracing people who have been in contact.

    Whitty says: “The NHS is extremely well prepared and used to managing infections, and we are already working rapidly to identify any contacts the patients had to prevent further spread.”

  • February 2: Matt Hancock launches a public information campaign about the coronavirus.

    “Basic hygiene such as washing our hands regularly and using tissues when we cough and sneeze can play an important role in minimising the spread of viruses like this,” he says. 

  • February 4: Dominic Raab urges Britons in China to leave — the UK is the first country to do so.
  • February 10:



    Chris Whitty (above, left) says eight people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK out of 1,114 tests.

    Matt Hancock says “the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health”.

  • February 12: First patient tests positive in London.
  • February 13: Chris Whitty outlines the UK’s strategy to contain and delay any outbreak of the virus to the summer. He says Britons do not need to change their behaviour other than taking sensible precautions.

    “We have a strategy that relies on four tactical aims. The first is to contain, the second is to delay, the third is to do the science and the research, and the fourth is to mitigate so that we can actually brace the NHS,” he says. 

  • February 14: Public Health England contacts 200 people who attended the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Centre in Westminster, amid fears they may have been in contact with the virus.

    London Fashion Week opens. 

  • February 16: 3,109 tests carried out in the UK — nine positive.
  • February 21: The NHS begins testing people at home in London. The approach will be rolled out across the UK in the coming weeks.
  • February 25: Matt Hancock says people returning from quarantine zones in Northern Italy should self-isolate.
  • February 28: First British death, in Japan.

    The UK now has 20 cases, including the first person to catch the virus in Britain.

  • February 29: Health minister Edward Argar says Chris Whitty’s advice is “clear there is no reason or need for schools en masse to close” at the moment, as three more test positive.
  • March 2: Boris Johnson holds an emergency Cobra meeting and says an outbreak across the UK is “likely”.

    “We have agreed a plan so that if and when it starts to spread, as I’m afraid it looks likely it will, we are in a position to take the steps necessary to contain the spread of the disease as far as we can and to protect the most vulnerable,” the prime minister says.

    Nicola Sturgeon says: “We’re expecting perhaps 50% or as much as 80% of the population would be infected during that epidemic.”

  • March 3:



    51 people in the UK have now tested positive out of 13,911 tested.

    Johnson says “I shook hands with everybody” during a visit to a hospital.

  • March 4: Chris Whitty says there is “probably” onward transmission in the UK and an epidemic is “likely, not definite”.

    “We probably do have some onward transmission here in the UK. Now we are on the borderline between containing and delaying. At this point in time we think it is likely, not definite, that we will move into onward transmission and an epidemic here in the UK.”

  • March 7: Boris Johnson goes to Twickenham to watch England play rugby, shaking hands with people in the crowd around him.

    206 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK. More than 21,000 people have been tested for the virus.

  • March 8: A UK government official briefs ITV News that the more stringent approach followed by Italy involves “populist measures” that “aren’t any use”.
  • March 9: Boris Johnson’s first press conference with Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.

    The PM says the best advice is to wash your hands, and says the UK is still in the contain stage but is preparing to move to the delay stage. 

    Asked why the UK wasn’t taking more draconian steps, he said: “We mustn’t do things with no or limited benefits.”

    Public Health England says the NHS will be brought in to help on testing, doubling daily testing capacity from 2,000 to 4,000.

  • March 10: Health minister Nadine Dorries tests positive. 
  • March 12: The UK moves from the “contain phase” to the “delay phase”.

    Johnson calls it “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and says “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”. But Whitty says social distancing measures will not be introduced yet. Those with mild symptoms are told to stay at home for seven days. Scotland bans gatherings of more than 500 people, but England does not. Schools remain open.

  • March 13:



    The Cheltenham horse racing festival concludes. More than 250,000 people attended.

    Chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance suggests in an interview with the BBC that the UK’s goal is to achieve “herd immunity”.

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    “If you suppress something very, very hard, when you release those measures it bounces back, and it bounces back at the wrong time. Our aim is to try to reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it.”

    But that evening, Downing Street says mass gatherings will be banned the following week, in a U-turn on the previous day’s statements. 

  • March 16: Transport minister Grant Shapps rejects criticism that the UK has not gone far enough, insisting it is focussing on scientific advice rather than “doing things that just sound good”, in an apparent reference to more stringent measures taken by other countries.

    Hours later, a report by Imperial College reveals the UK only realised “in the last few days” that attempts to “mitigate” the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to “suppress” the outbreak.

    The WHO says its key message is “test, test, test”. Overall only 44,105 people have been tested in the UK, but Whitty insists the government is “scaling up” testing.

    In the evening, Boris Johnson holds the first of Downing Street’s daily press conferences and unveils tougher advice, telling Britons to avoid all unnecessary contact and travel, and to stay away from pubs and theatres.

    If one person in a household shows systems, there should be 14 days of self-isolation for the rest of the household. Those who can work from home should.

  • March 17: The UK advises against all nonessential travel abroad.
  • March 18:



    The government announces all schools across the UK will close indefinitely from Friday, March 20.

    The UK death toll rises to 104.

    Boris Johnson tells Parliament the government will ramp up testing to 25,000 tests a day.

  • March 19: Boris Johnson claims “we can turn the tide within the next 12 weeks”. He raises the prospect of a possible rollout of an antibody test “as simple as a pregnancy test”. 
  • March 20: Boris Johnson orders pubs, clubs, restaurants, and other entertainment and leisure venues to close. 
  • March 22: Following reports that people are ignoring social distancing advice, Johnson warns he could have to introduce tougher measures. 
  • March 23:



    Boris Johnson announces a UK-wide lockdown, with people only allowed to leave their homes for one of four reasons: for work, essential shopping, medical reasons, or exercise. 
  • March 25: Chris Whitty blames a global shortage of chemicals for the UK’s lack of testing, when asked why Britain is behind other countries.

    “We are going up from 5,000 to 10,000 tests per day, to 25,000, hopefully very soon up to 250,000 per day,” he says.

    Public Health England’s Sharon Peacock says the UK could roll out a mass antibody test within days. But Whitty rejects this: “I do not think, and I want to be clear, that this is something that we’ll suddenly be ordering on the internet next week.”

  • March 26: Death toll now 578. 11,658 people across the UK have tested positive.

    Deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries rejects the WHO’s advice to “test, test, test”, suggesting it is aimed at less economically developed countries and is “not appropriate” for the UK at this stage of the outbreak.

  • March 27: Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock test positive for COVID-19. Chris Whitty also self-isolates after developing symptoms.
  • March 29: The UK fails to reach its goal of 10,000 daily tests.

    A report published by Google using data from products like Google Maps shows mobility is significantly down: -85% in retail locations, -46% for places like grocery markets and pharmacies, -52% for parks, -75% for transit stations, and -55% for workplaces, while Britons spend more time at home.

  • April 1: Boris Johnson says testing will “unlock the puzzle” to beating the virus, following intense criticism from the media. The Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail both criticised the government’s lack of testing.

    It emerges just 2,000 NHS staff have been tested.

  • April 2:



    Matt Hancock sets a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of April.

    He admits the UK has been unable to match the level of testing in countries such as Germany because of its smaller diagnostics industry and a shortage of swabs and chemicals.

  • April 5:



    Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital. In a televised address to the nation, Queen Elizabeth calls for “self-discipline and resolve” to defeat the coronavirus. 
  • April 6: Boris Johnson is moved to intensive care.
  • April 7: Chris Whitty says the UK has a “lot to learn” from other countries such as Germany on testing. 
  • April 8: 938 people die in a single day, taking the total death toll to 7,097. The UK reaches 14,000 tests a day.
  • April 9: Dominic Raab signals that the UK lockdown will be extended, as Johnson is moved out of intensive care after his condition improved.

    Germany’s army donates 60 ventilators to the UK.

  • April 10: The government announces a plan to ensure that all health workers get PPE, amid persistent reports of continued shortages.
  • April 11: A total of 78,991 people have tested positive. Of those hospitalised, 9,875 have died. The Department of Health says 334,974 tests have been conducted so far.
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