Today marks the two-year anniversary since the first UK lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It was on 23 March 2020 when Boris Johnson gave the order to “stay at home”.
That came several weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the UK – in York at the StayCity Apartments – on the 29 January.
Since the initial ‘stay at home’ ruling, the UK has seen another two lockdowns, compulsory mask wearing, the ‘rule of six’, and a nationwide vaccination rollout.
And there have been more than 160,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK.
So where are we now?
Closing testing stations
In England, more than 73% of the population is fully vaccinated. In York, more than 89% of adults have had at least two jabs, and 70% of 12-15 year-olds have had at least the first dose.
After a significant drop, Covid cases have been rising in York in recent weeks. Altogether, 1,943 residents had tested positive in the week to Tuesday, up 27.5% on the previous seven days.
Hospital admissions are climbing too. This week it was revealed there were a record number of Covid cases at York Hospital.
But there have been few deaths in this wave – due to the vaccine rollout success.
Fiona Phillips, assistant director of public health for York, told us: “We want to thank the people of York for your support over the last two years.
“In York we have carried out over 74,000 assisted tests, handed out more than 500,000 lateral flow tests; and more than 164,000 people have had at least one dose of the vaccines.
“Our testing sites will be closing on the 25 March, and you will only be able to get lateral flow tests from the national site and pharmacies until the 31 March.
“We would encourage everyone to try and plan ahead and order what you think you will need whilst it’s still available.”
Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health and adult social care, said: “The last two years have been times of unprecedented challenges and we are grateful that our communities have come together to help keep our city safe. The lifting of restrictions has only been possible because of your hard work.
“York is lucky to be home to an amazing range of businesses and we now have the opportunity to support them after some incredibly challenging times.
“We have seen time and time again that the people of York are kind, caring and supportive. I know that whilst we all enjoy everything our city has to offer, we’ll continue to think about others around us and how we can help keep each other safe.”
The business response
Some businesses have kept Covid-19 safety measures in place.
Kwench on Church Street originally had ‘door service’ as a temporary measure during the pandemic, but the set-up has worked so well and freed up space for more equipment that the store plans on keeping the system in place.
Optional mask wearing and hand sanitiser at the entrance/exits can be found in some stores, cafés and bars, including: H&M and TK Maxx, Keystones pub, Heavenly Desserts and Bettys. ‘Order from your table’ is still a service in use at many pubs and restaurants.
For example, the RSPCA shop on Goodramgate has a sign in its window asking for face coverings. They said “many people use the hand sanitiser we provide and respect the sign asking for masks, which has been nice”.
‘Baffling’ lack of quarantine
While it is a lovely sight to see people mingling in the streets and to see people’s smiles again, Covid-19 is still very much a part of our lives.
Jessica Preiss, 20, a student living in York can’t have the vaccine because of her allergies to ingredients in it.
She says: “I feel like the government is very much contradicting itself with getting rid of free tests and testing centres when they have been saying testing is essential.
“I personally feel OK as I haven’t had Covid – but the fact they are allowing people to go out in public with the virus with no quarantine is baffling to me.”