It hardly seems possible, but it's a year ago this week that the first case of COVID-19 was officially confirmed in Cheshire East. The victim, from the Macclesfield area, was the third in Cheshire. The others were in Warrington and Chester.
By the end of March, the virus had moved quickly across the UK, and more than 100 were dead from the disease. All schools, pubs, restaurants, and leisure centres closed in the nation's first lockdown on March 26.
April saw infections in Cheshire East rise dramatically. They had topped 800 by the end of the month and passed 1,000 on May 9. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, just released from hospital after treatment for COVID-19, assured the country that the pandemic was "now past the peak."
May – August 2020
During May 2020, lockdown restrictions were eased. The following month saw children back at school and shops reopening. Pubs and restaurants followed in early July. In Cheshire East, COVID-19 cases dropped to just a handful. August saw only 153 cases added to the list.
Keen to get the nation back to normal, the government launched its Eat Out To Help Out scheme and the remaining lockdown restriction on theatres and gyms were eased. But signs of a second wave were already growing, particularly in cities where 'local lockdowns' had been imposed since July.
September – October 2020
By September, COVID-19 cases in Cheshire East were growing despite a 'Rule of Six' imposed on outdoor social gatherings. October saw a spectacular increase in infections, and cases in Cheshire East doubled to 6,000.
A three-tier system of COVID-19 restrictions announced by the government on October 14 failed to halt the spread, and a second UK lockdown was imposed to prevent a 'medical and moral disaster for the NHS.
November – December 2020
In November, confirmed UK cases passed the one million mark, and infections in Cheshire East regularly topped 100, peaking at 188 on November 12. The December UK death toll passed 75,000 but, with a slight easing of infections, the government agreed to relax the rules for Christmas day family gatherings while introducing tougher Tier 4 restriction across much of England.
The dip in the infection rate was short-lived. On January 6, England entered its third national lockdown. The upward weekly trend in Cheshire East jumped to 84%, and total infections topped 13,000.
The effects of the new lockdown, however, were immediate. February brought a steep fall in cases, albeit from a very high level – nearly eight times higher than in the first wave. The downward trend has prompted another easing of the rules. Schools are back, and hopes are now high for the reopening shops and pubs. With vaccines now available and the experience of multiple mistakes under our belts, hopes are high for a return to normal this year.
Cheshire East passed the 20,000 mark on March 7, and current infection rates of around 30 cases daily are similar to the levels seen a year ago at the height of the first wave. This month more than 20 people have been admitted into local hospitals, where 44 are currently being treated for COVID-19, with three surviving on ventilators.
With more than 25 local deaths so far this month and a total death toll in Cheshire East approaching 800, there is still a long way to go before we can say it's all over.