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A year in lockdown: How life in Suffolk changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic



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A year ago today Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be put into lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19.

The move followed weeks of panic buying at the supermarkets, announcements that numerous events would be cancelled, and orders to stay socially distant (at least two metres) from others after the first coronavirus cases were recorded in the country.

Now, a year on since (what we now know were) the first set of restrictions to be imposed, how has life in Suffolk been affected by the pandemic?

A sign urging people to stay socially distant in Newmarket. Picture by Mark Westley
A sign urging people to stay socially distant in Newmarket. Picture by Mark Westley

We've put together a timeline of the biggest milestones nationally and locally over the last 12 months:

March 2020

- 24: A day after the national lockdown and 'stay at home' message was ordered by the UK Government, West Suffolk Hospital shares the news of the first death of a patient who had tested positive for Covid-19 at the Bury St Edmunds site.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the first national lockdown
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces the first national lockdown

- 25: Suffolk Police says it will 'take action' if they come across people repeatedly breaching social distancing rules.

- 26: Residents across the country take part in the first weekly 'Clap for Carers' on their doorsteps or from their windows to show their appreciation for health workers fighting the virus. This would continue every Thursday at 8pm for several weeks.

A round of applause for NHS workers. Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay
A round of applause for NHS workers. Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

- 27: The Government says it is aiming to find accommodation for all of Suffolk's rough sleepers by the weekend.

- 30: Coronavirus cases in Suffolk hit 100 - with 1,339 cases recorded across the east of England.

April 2020

- 2: West Suffolk MP and Health Secretary Matt Hancock sets a target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day as he returns to work after suffering from the virus himself.

Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock
Health Secretary and West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock

- 5: Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital with Covid-19 symptoms 10 days after testing positive, on the same evening on which the Queen delivers a speech to the country.

- 6: Suffolk police hand out 178 warnings to people flouting social distancing rules over the weekend.

- 15: The impact of the virus in settings other than hospitals starts to become clear as eight deaths linked to coronavirus are reported at a Suffolk care home.

- 27: Some positive news to report as West Suffolk Hospital reveals that 58 patients who had tested positive for Covid have been discharged since the outbreak began.

- 29: There's a national push to increase testing for Covid, with a Mobile Testing Unit set up at Meadow Car Park in Haverhill.

May 2020

- 10: The Prime Minister announces changes to lockdown rules for many areas, including schooling, exercise and return to work, but his statement left many questions unanswered.

- 20: Suffolk Highways reveals that more than 6,300 potholes and other road repairs have been completed during lockdown, an increase of 18.5 per cent on the same period the previous year as workers take advantage of quieter roads.

- 29: Testing of all care home staff and residents in Suffolk - if one person gets coronavirus - has been in place for more than two weeks, council care bosses say.

- 30: It is announced that Newmarket's Rowley Mile will return to business - behind closed doors - from next week after the Government gave the green light for live sport to resume.

June 2020

- 9: Shops - including those at the Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds - gear up to welcome customers back from next week.

Bury St Edmunds' Arc Shopping Centre after the first lockdown was eased. Picture by Mark Westley
Bury St Edmunds' Arc Shopping Centre after the first lockdown was eased. Picture by Mark Westley

- 10: Single adult households in England will be able to form 'support bubbles' with another household from June 13, the Prime Minister announces.

- 23: In a further Government announcement of the easing of restrictions, Boris Johnson says that pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers will be among the businesses that can reopen from July 4.

July 2020

- 1: As hotels and B&Bs become unavailable as emergency accommodation, West Suffolk Council says it will set up 15 portable units for homeless people.

- 3: A timelapse video filmed over three months shows Bury St Edmunds gradually return to life after the coronavirus lockdown.

- 9: Swimming, five-a-side football, hockey and basketball are among the sports soon to be allowed again as the Government announces the latest guidelines that will be relaxed from July 25.

- 14: While many have been getting used to wearing face masks in indoor public places over the last few months anyway, the Government announces it will become mandatory to wear a face covering in supermarkets and other shops from July 24.

Face coverings are mandatory in a number of settings in the UK
Face coverings are mandatory in a number of settings in the UK

- 16: Age UK Suffolk says it will cease operations from the end of next week, with 143 job losses, following 'significant financial losses' due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- 17: Boris Johnson sets out further measures to bring the UK out of lockdown - announcing changes to the 'work from home' message - from the beginning of August. The PM also says it is hoped there will be a 'more significant return to normality' in time for Christmas.

August 2020

- 3: People are encouraged to support local restaurants and eateries during August as the Government's Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme launches.

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme
The Eat Out to Help Out scheme

- 7: Further effects of the coronavirus pandemic become clear, as it's revealed that nearly 500 patients are waiting more than a year for appointments at West Suffolk Hospital.

- 8: The list of places where you have to wear a face mask is extended, and now includes cinemas, places of worship and beauty salons.

- 17: A-level and GCSE students in England will be given teacher-assessed grades, instead of algorithm estimates, the Government announces in a U-turn decision days after A-level pupils got their results and days before GCSE students are due to get theirs.

- 25: Almost a third of eligible jobs in Suffolk have been furloughed since March, new figures reveal.

September 2020

- 6: Children are back in the classroom - and no longer a virtual one, but as they return in their bubbles, schools begin to announce that staff and pupils have tested positive. At Samuel Ward Academy in Haverhill, five members of teaching staff test positive for Covid, and following the advice of Public Health England, the school closes for a few days.

- 9: The PM introduces the 'Rule of 6' which means that from September 14, it will be illegal to meet in groups of more than six.

Boris Johnson pictured at a coronavirus briefing
Boris Johnson pictured at a coronavirus briefing

- 21: Suffolk County Council anticipates a financial hit of more than £43m as a result of the pandemic - though Government grants have made up for most of that.

- 22: Boris Johnson tells people to 'work from home if you can' in latest announcement.

- 23: Pubs and clubs across Suffolk hit back at the Government-ordered 10pm curfew set to come into play tomorrow.

- 28: Social care minister Helen Whately says the country is at a 'really serious point in time and needs to take decisive action' to curb the rise in Covid infections - as the Government introduces new £10,000 fines for those breaching self-isolation rules.

- 30: 36 employees at the Bernard Matthews food processing factory in Holton are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid.

October 2020

- 12: New local lockdown rules announced, but Suffolk avoids the toughest restrictions that will be implemented under a three-tier system - the county is considered a medium risk county.

- 24: Cafés and restaurants across Suffolk join a national campaign to ensure no child goes hungry over half term, on the back of a campaign to end child food poverty by footballer Marcus Rashford.

- 31: Boris Johnson announces a second national lockdown for England in a bid to curb the rise in coronavirus cases - from November 5.

November 2020

- 4: An independent group representing businesses in Suffolk calls on the Government to offer 'sustained help' to employers and businesses during the second lockdown - which it describes as a 'devastating blow' to the business community.

- 10: Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine could start to be distributed across Suffolk by Christmas after it clears a 'significant hurdle' and initial results suggest it is 90 per cent effective at protecting people from Covid-19.

A Covid-19 vaccine
A Covid-19 vaccine

- 21: Suffolk's first site for delivering Covid-19 vaccinations is to be ready in less than two weeks time, it is confirmed.

- 23: The second national lockdown will be lifted from December 2 - with a stricter three-tier system of restrictions coming into force, the PM announces.

- 26: Suffolk escapes the toughest post-lockdown restrictions, as it's revealed that the county will be in Tier 2 from next week.

- 28: The toll of the pandemic on people's mental health is revealed as a phone line set up to provide immediate help to anyone experiencing mental health difficulty during lockdown has been used by more than 25,000 people across Norfolk and Suffolk.

December 2020

- 8: An important milestone is reached as the first coronavirus vaccines are rolled out across the UK.

- 10: A Suffolk nurse who was among the first in the area to receive the vaccine yesterday urges others to take it 'as soon as it is offered'.

Rollout of Covid vaccine jabs at Woolpit Health Centre. Picture by Mark Westley
Rollout of Covid vaccine jabs at Woolpit Health Centre. Picture by Mark Westley

- 17: Residents in Suffolk will remain in Tier 2 for the rest of 2020, despite hopes that restrictions would be relaxed in time for Christmas, Matt Hancock says in the House of Commons.

- 19: There's disappointment for many as the PM announces that the planned relaxation of coronavirus rules for a five-day period over Christmas will be cut to just Christmas Day for people living in Tiers 1 to 3, including Suffolk in Tier 2.

- 23: Millions more people in England will be facing tougher restrictions amid a 'dangerous' rate of the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus from Boxing Day, it is announced. Suffolk will be in Tier 4 as of Boxing Day.

- 31: On the last day of 2020, officials urge people to comply with the restrictions over the New Year weekend as they say Suffolk is at a critical point in the fight against Covid.

January 2021

- 3: Boris Johnson says parents should send primary age children back to schools that are open, as he hints at tougher measures for England.

- 4: A third national lockdown is announced, as schools are set to close and exams will be cancelled.

- 7: The vaccine effort ramps up as 14 new sites are set to deliver the jab across Suffolk and north east Essex from next week.

- 11: Suffolk crosses grim milestone as latest data shows that 1,000 people have lost their lives to coronavirus in the county - with a warning of more deaths to come.

- 26: Boris Johnson says he is 'deeply sorry for every life that has been lost' to Covid-19 as the UK records more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths.

February 2021

- 2: Residents report dog-napping crimes across Suffolk as the the nature of it changes from an opportunistic crime to an organised one.

- 7: Bad weather across Suffolk forces several Covid vaccination centres to close.

The Covid Rapid Test Centre at the Haverhill Arts Centre. Picture by Richard Marsham
The Covid Rapid Test Centre at the Haverhill Arts Centre. Picture by Richard Marsham

- 19: More than 37,000 people per week can be vaccinated across Suffolk, latest data shows - as more than one in three adults in the county have now received a first dose of the Covid-19 jab.

- 22: Boris Johnson sets out his roadmap to lifting lockdown restrictions in England.

March 2021

- 2: Volunteers are on standby to help Suffolk schools test their pupils who return to the classroom next week.

- 21: Care home residents 'overjoyed' to meet loved ones in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

- 21: It's a record day for Covid-19 vaccinations, and more than half of UK's adult population has now had a first coronavirus jab.

- 23: The UK is set to mark one year on from the first Covid lockdown with a national day of reflection. A minute's silence and a doorstep vigil will form part of the day, as the country pays tribute to those who have lost their lives during the pandemic. Prominent buildings and landmarks will also be lit up.

Read more: All the latest news from Suffolk