From the COVID Frontline: United Kingdom

  Last updated April 14, 2020 at 12:28 pm

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Holly Barry shares her experience from one of the nations hardest-hit by COVID-19 – the United Kingdom.


covid uk_Piccadilly Circus_uk

A deserted Piccadilly Circus as billboards display notices telling people to “Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.” The country is in nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images




Why This Matters: As things are expected to worsen, people are maintaining an optimistic mindset.




UK: first case reported 31 January


Cases 89,571; deaths 11,347


(At 10:00 CET on Tuesday 14 April)


It feels surreal typing out information about coronavirus cases in the UK. Only three weeks ago I was counting down to my wedding day, making exciting summer plans with close friends and family and was immensely enjoying my job – which now ceases to exist.


Whilst my plans are for now on hold, I count myself very lucky. COVID-19 cases in the UK increased ten-fold in a very short space of time. Currently, we’re facing lockdown for three weeks. We have been instructed to stay and work at home to help stop the spread of the disease. We’ve been told that we are to only make trips to the supermarket if they are for essential items; we are also permitted to do one form of outdoor exercise a day whilst maintaining a two-metre distance from other people at all times. In the space of several weeks cases in the UK have increased from 40 people to more than 50,000 with the peak expected to hit over Easter – this week.


The strategy to stop people panicking, but panic-buying is still happening


The UK government could have closed restaurants, bars and schools sooner, but their strategy was to keep people from panicking, implementing a phased approach to the lockdown. In some ways, this has worked but we too have been subject to people panic-buying, with shoppers stockpiling toilet roll, pasta and canned meat. Reality hit us when we saw masses of people queueing to enter supermarkets and pharmacies. One store manager even told my grandparents that shoppers would start arriving just in time for the deliveries at 4am.




Elsewhere: From the COVID Frontline – South Korea




At first, people were emptying the shelves – you couldn’t even buy plain flour to bake with – but once lockdown was introduced on 23 March people seemed to start listening. My first visit to a supermarket after the lockdown announcement was met with a very empty shelves and the few shoppers there wearing masks and gloves.


NHS is reaching capacity


Additionally, the strategy from the government, in the beginning, was to relieve any undue pressure on the NHS, which was still below maximum capacity two weeks ago. The UK is now waiting to see the effects of the lockdown with regards to flattening the curve of confirmed cases and deaths which are to be expected over the coming weeks. Now that the NHS is reaching full capacity, the NHS Nightingale Hospital (previously the London ExCeL Centre, used for conferences and events) has been built in just two weeks is now ready for 4000 patients.




Elsewhere: From the COVID Frontline: Western United States




Whilst things are expected to get worse on the COVID UK front, my partner and I remain optimistic. Every day we make sure to do some form of exercise, whether that’s a HIIT workout in the garden or a run around our local area. The roads are eerily quiet, which means our runs are not staggered by having to stop at every other traffic light. Most people in our town have exactly the same idea, so we do get to see people out and about doing their daily exercise. I have become somewhat obsessed with TikTok (it’s a lot harder than it looks to emulate any of the challenges), The Tiger King on Netflix and This Country on the BBC, which is keeping me sane. However, with a considerable increase in FaceTime and House Party calls, as well as Whatsapp messages, my daily screen time has rocketed from 2 hours 12 minutes to a whopping 4:31…


We have postponed our wedding to next year when we hope family and friends will be able to really enjoy themselves without any doubts as to whether they should be “social distancing”. I have even managed to find another job with an immediate start date! We are going to continue to follow the government’s guidance, keeping inside where possible, giving one another the space to do our own thing during the day whilst keeping in close contact with our friends and family on regular calls.


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About the Author

Holly Barry
Holly Barry is a correspondent for Cosmos Magazine and the Royal Institution of Australia based in Aylesbury, England.

Published By

Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.


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