With cases rising, UK marks 2 years since 1st virus lockdown

Mar 23, 2022, 8:21 AM | Updated: 9:06 am

LONDON (AP) — Britain paused Wednesday to remember the thousands of lives lost to the coronavirus in the two years since Prime Minister Boris Johnson plunged the country into its first lockdown with the command: “You must stay at home.”

The strict lockdown imposed on March 23, 2020 shut offices, schools, restaurants, shops and playgrounds, and people who did not work in essential jobs only were allowed outside for exercise and limited tasks. The stringent measures lasted for about three months, and on-off restrictions continued until early this year.

With civic freedoms restored but new confirmed cases rising once again, Wednesday was designated a day of reflection on a pandemic that has claimed almost 164,000 lives in the U.K., the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe after Russia.

Britain also had one of the developed world’s deepest economic downturns as the pandemic closed down swaths of the economy.

Members of bereaved families on Wednesday tied yellow ribbons to Westminster Bridge beside Parliament, near a memorial wall for pandemic victims emblazoned with thousands of hand-painted hearts. A minute’s silence was held at noon (1200GMT), and people were encouraged to show flowers or shine a light in their window at 8 p.m.

“Those lost to COVID will never be out of our hearts and minds, and today we reflect as a nation,” Johnson said in a message to mark the anniversary.

Johnson, who was hospitalized in intensive care with COVID-19 in April 2020, said he had seen “first-hand the heroic efforts” of medical personnel. He paid tribute “to them, the grief counsellors, charity workers and friends and families, as we pause to remember those we have lost.”

The government’s opponents and public health experts heavily criticized Britain’s response to the pandemic. They said scientists’ recommendations were not always heeded by a prime minister whose laissez-faire instincts made him reluctant to clamp down on the economy and daily life.

After pressure from bereaved families, Johnson agreed to hold a public inquiry into his government’s handling of the pandemic, led by a retired senior judge. It is due to start hearings within weeks.

Critics say Johnson was slow to impose a lockdown as a new respiratory virus first seen in China started to spread early in 2020 and claim the delay cost thousands of lives.

Johnson wavered again as infections soared in the fall of 2020 but finally ordered a second lockdown. Weary Britons endured a third lockdown in the early months of 2021, when the more transmissible delta variant put Britain at the epicenter of Europe’s pandemic.

Months of gradually loosening restrictions followed until England lifted mask-wearing rules, mandatory self-isolation for the infectious and other remaining restrictions even as omicron, the most transmissible variant yet, swept in. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have eased up more slowly.

“We got the big calls right during the pandemic,” Johnson insisted in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Scientists agree that one success was the U.K.’s rapid and widely supported vaccination program. Almost 92% of people age 12 and up have had two doses of a vaccine, and two-thirds have had a third, booster shot. Fourth doses are being given to the vulnerable and those age 75 and over.

Vaccination means that although cases are once again rising in the U.K. — driven by a subvariant of omicron that is even more easily spread — hospitalizations and deaths remain well below previous peaks.

Cases are also rising significantly in France, Italy and Germany, and World Health Organization Europe chief Dr. Hans Kluge has accused European nations of lifting restrictions too rapidly.

Julie Pearce, chief nurse at the Marie Curie health charity, which organized Wednesday’s commemoration events, said the anniversary was an opportunity to reflect and connect with others.

“While life is beginning to return to normal for some people, several million people are still living with the trauma of loss and not being able to grieve properly,” Pearce said. “Let’s take time to connect and show support for the millions of people who are grieving, and remember the family, friends, neighbors and colleagues we’ve lost over the last two years.”

___

Follow all AP stories on the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Elon Musk departs the Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Court House in San Francisc...
Associated Press

Elon Musk’s mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Elon Musk’s enigmatic personality and unconventional tactics are emerging as key exhibits in a trial revolving around one of his most polarizing pursuits — tweeting. The trial, centered on a pair of tweets announcing Musk had obtained the money to take Tesla private in 2018, reeled the 51-year-old billionaire into a […]
12 hours ago
FILE - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., pauses during a break in the taping of an interview ...
Associated Press

Biden, McCarthy to discuss debt limit in talks on Wednesday

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he is looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling ” when the two meet Wednesday for their first sit-down at the White House since McCarthy was elected to the post. McCarthy, R-Calif., said […]
12 hours ago
A resident of Salinas, considered one of the most contaminated towns in Puerto Rico, waits for a me...
Associated Press

Puerto Rico’s southern region fights for cleaner air, water

SALINAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — Shuttered windows are a permanent fixture in Salinas, an industrial town on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast that is considered one of the U.S. territory’s most contaminated regions. For years, toxic ash and noxious chemicals from coal-fired and thermoelectric power plants have enveloped this community, and residents have complained about health […]
12 hours ago
People lay flowers to commemorate British volunteers Chris Parry and Andrew Bagshaw, killed in Ukra...
Associated Press

Russia alleges Ukraine war crimes; friends mourn volunteer

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Friends and volunteers gathered Sunday at Kyiv’s St Sophia’s Cathedral to say goodbye to Andrew Bagshaw, a New Zealand scientist who was killed in Ukraine while he and another volunteer who also died tried to evacuate people from a front-line town. Bagshaw, 48, a dual New Zealand-British citizen, and British volunteer […]
12 hours ago
Jessie Blanchard's jeep bumper holds a sticker with the slogan "Yes We Narcan" on Monday, Jan. 23, ...
Associated Press

Experts urge better opioid rescue drug access to save lives

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Jessie Blanchard started small nearly five years ago, just trying to get enough of the rescue drug naloxone that reverses opioid overdoses to keep her daughter from dying from an overdose. She pleaded with colleagues at the college where she’s an adjunct teacher in Albany, Georgia, to use their prescription benefits […]
12 hours ago
Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, right, shakes hands with Lebane...
Associated Press

Qatar replaces Russian company in Lebanon gas exploration

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon, two international oil giants and state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy signed an agreement Sunday that the Qatari firm will join a consortium that will search for gas in the Mediterranean Sea off Lebanon’s coast. The deal inked in Beirut brings Qatar into Lebanon’s gas exploration market three months after […]
12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
With cases rising, UK marks 2 years since 1st virus lockdown