Available in audio at the following link: https://anchor.fm/joanna-booth/episodes/A-Timeline-Of-The-Plague-Year-euuu0r
On March 23, 2020, the day that lockdown was announced, I was so nervous paying for my shopping at the supermarket that I forgot my PIN. There was a queue behind me, no masks, no separations from the till, just uncertainty. I had to leave everything at the counter and rush off.
It’s strange to think back now and realise that we knew so little; there was guesswork over symptoms, no tests or PPE available or even whether the disease was airborne or how it spread.
In the Guardian article ‘Which activities are safe and which should people avoid?’ on 14 March 2020, Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, was quoted saying he would not stop visiting his elderly relatives, that it was OK to visit the pub, and that from the perspective of individual risk there was not a strong argument for avoiding big sporting events. Yet nine days later we were all locked away.
What a difference a year has made to our understanding of Covid-19 but it has also made it easy to forget the details.
For over a year I watched Ian Sinclair and Professor Rupert Read update their timeline on our plague year. They updated Ian’s Medium blog weekly to make sure that the life-and-death choices made by our government and the coverage by our media were recorded. This timeline has aimed to be the most comprehensive record of the government’s response to the pandemic in the UK.
In late 2020, I contacted Ian and Rupert to suggest making it into an eBook. I knew that documenting the events in a book was important not only as evidence but for posterity. This was public knowledge that needed to be kept safe. As a book editor, I had a solution for how to do that.
We added an introduction, a conclusion and short summaries for key events at the start of each month. The entries in the timeline nearly all appear at the time they took place. Sometimes reports on events were not published until afterwards, so an event that took place in 2016, such as Operation Cygnus, appears in 2016, rather than when the report was published.
Rupert had a sense, in February–March 2020, that the then-emerging coronavirus pandemic in the UK would be, in the words of editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, a ‘national scandal’, especially when compared to the appropriately rapid and precautious response to Covid-19 that occurred in many other island states (such as Taiwan and New Zealand).
Now in April 2021, with over 150,000 dead in the UK and over £37 billion gone to a test and trace system that has been widely criticised and has badly failed us, Ian and Rupert have been proven right.
We have made this ebook available for free and published under a creative commons license. The print edition is sold at cost with no royalties. Our aim is to keep the events of 2020—2021 alive in people’s memories. To quote Rupert: ‘the UK civilian carnage, from the avoidable Covid-catastrophe, has been higher than that from the entire Second World War. The national scandal whose outlines we trace in their terrible detail, in this timeline, should be definitively career-ending for the politicians who have presided over it.’
Let’s remember that.
Compiled by Ian Sinclair & Rupert Read (edited by Joanna Booth), A Timeline Of The Plague Year is a comprehensive record of the ‘national scandal’ that’s taken place in the UK.
The ebook is available to download for free from our website covidtheplagueyear.wordpress.com and https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/rupert-read-and-ian-sinclair-and-joanna-booth/a-timeline-of-the-plague-year/ebook/product-r42g2j.html
Launch event details: Tues Ap. 27th, 7.15pm; with Andy Towler and Stefan Simonowitz joining the authors; introduced by Joanna Booth: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/launch-of-the-book-a-timeline-of-the-plague-year-tickets-148902303799