On this day, one year ago today, the official coronavirus death toll rose above 100 as cases increased by nearly 700, as panic invaded the supermarkets and the stock markets.
Schools across England were ordered to close the following day, following leads in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as an under-fire Prime Minister struggled to take initiative.
Boris Johnson u-turned on testing, vowing to increase the number carried out each day from 5,000 to 25,000.
The Chancellor’s frantic £350billion gamble to stave off an economic crisis caused partly by virus panic did little to calm matters, as the FTSE 100 tumbled by more than 5 per cent.
Pound sterling plummeted to a 35-year low against the US dollar, while the new Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey hinted at further radical action to soften the effects of the pandemic response.
Glastonbury Festival 2020, which would have marked the 50th anniversary of the world-famous music event, was cancelled following days of rumour and ‘big staff meetings’.
British supermarkets imposed rationing on essential items such as toilet roll, soap and milk as scores of Britons stampeded into stores and cleared the shelves amid the frenzy.
The number of cases worldwide hit 200,000, as Italian cases fell following that country’s lockdown. Spain vowed to shut hotels and the EU Commission President admitted leaders ‘underestimated’ the virus.
Top scientists at the World Health Organisation warned that coronavirus was killing young people as well as old, while China’s Covid expert said ‘herd immunity’ would not stop its spread.
And in North America, Donald Trump shut the US border with Canada and tripled down on talk of the ‘Chinese virus’ to the general annoyance of the People’s Republic of China.
Here, MailOnline continues its countdown of the days leading to the anniversary of the March 23 shutdown…
March 18, 2020: UK coronavirus death toll rises to 104 and cases increase by nearly 700 – as emergency Westminster morgue doubles its corpse capacity to 200
The capacity of Westminster Public Mortuary is likely to double after the construction of the extension (pictured)
Builders were seen moving materials to construct the extension, which lies near the Houses of Parliament
On this day, one year ago today, the official coronavirus death toll rose above 100 as cases increased by nearly 700
Officials announced 33 more deaths, up from 16 the day before and 20 at the start of the week, amid fears of the outbreak spiralling out of control.
An emergency mortuary in Westminster revealed it was having to double its capacity from 102 corpses to more than 200, in case the crisis escalated as forecast.
The number of confirmed cases rose by almost 7000, with 2,626 patients then known to have been infected across the home nations. However, the true toll was reportedly being masked by officials.
Health chiefs were only swabbing patients in hospital, a controversial decision that prompted the wrath of the World Health Organisation which urged countries to ‘test, test, test’.
Boris Johnson finally vowed a dramatic escalation of the UK’s testing capacity to carry out 25,000 tests a day, after stark warnings that Britain cannot fight the pandemic ‘blindfolded’.
March 18, 2020: Schools across the UK close ‘for the foreseeable future’ and GCSE and A-level exams in May and June are SCRAPPED as panic takes hold
Boris Johnson announcing that all schools in England are to be closed as of Friday, following the lead of Scotland and Wales
A petition calling on the government to close schools across the UK surged to more than 672,000 signatures
Boris Johnson’s old stomping ground Eton College near Windsor was to shut down in order to combat the coronavirus
Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, set out the bombshell plans to the House of Commons at the same time as Mr Johnson addressed the nation during his daily coronavirus press conference. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said she could not make any promises about when schools will be able to reopen
The Prime Minister announced all schools in England would close by the end of the week, along with those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that when school gates shut on the Friday, they would not reopen for the foreseeable future.
A skeleton operation would be kept in place across the country so that the children of key workers – including NHS staff, police officers and supermarket delivery drivers – could be looked after and enable their parents to continue to work.
The Prime Minister also said GCSE and A Level exams planned for May and June would be cancelled while nurseries and private schools were also told to close.
Mr Johnson’s announcement was confirmed by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson in a statement to the House of Commons.
March 18, 2020: Businesses warn Rishi Sunak £350billion coronavirus bailout is NOT ENOUGH amid fears unemployment could hit 1MILLION
Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak said they were acting like a ‘wartime government’
The package was unveiled in Downing Street (pictured) after the government advised Britons to avoid pubs and clubs
Businesses warned Chancellor Rishi Sunak his frantic £350billion bid to stop the pandemic wiping out entire sectors was not enough.
Industry leaders warned that providing companies with loans rather than grants could mean they would not be viable in the long-term.
The Government faced calls to foot wage bills so staff were not laid off, as well as deferring VAT bills and suspending national insurance.
Meanwhile, ministers faced complaints they are doing ‘nothing’ for ordinary people, the self-employed and renters.
The Chancellor said more measures were to come, hinting at direct ’employment support’ for jobs and incomes. He appealed for employers to delay lay-offs until they have seen the full package of support, saying: ‘We will help them get through this. They don’t need to rush these decisions.’
The unprecedented bailout would see the Government guarantee £330billion of loans for struggling firms, and pump £20billion into a business rates holiday and cash handouts to smaller companies.
March 18, 2020: Glastonbury Festival is CANCELLED and rescheduled for 2021 following ‘big staff meetings’ on Covid
It was reported that the event would be cancelled allegedly due to a ‘lack of medical staff [and] police support’
Breaking the news to ticket-holders: Glastonbury founders Emily and Michael Eavis made the announcement on Twitter
Glastonbury Festival 2020, the 50th anniversary edition of the music event due to be held in June, was cancelled
Glastonbury Festival 2020, the 50th anniversary edition of the music event due to be held in June, was cancelled following ‘big staff meetings’.
Festival bosses chose to pull the plug on the the event before April 1, when festival-goers were due to pay the remaining balance of their £270 tickets.
Tickets would be rolled over to June 2021, when the festival was rescheduled for.
The full statement read: ‘We are so sorry to announce this, but Glastonbury 2020 will have to be cancelled, and this will be an enforced fallow year for the Festival.
‘Clearly this was not a course of action we hoped to take for our 50th anniversary event, but following the new government measures announced this week – and in times of such unprecedented uncertainty – this is now our only viable option.
‘We very much hope that the situation in the UK will have improved by the end of June.
‘But even if it has, we are no longer able to spend the next three months here with the thousands of crew here on the farm, helping us with the enormous job of building the infrastructure and attractions to welcome more than 200,000 people to a temporary city in these fields.’
March 18, 2020: Supermarkets ration essential items such as toilet roll and soap as coronavirus panic-buying intensifies
This photo of an elderly man looking for supplies as he is surrounded by empty supermarket shelves in Surrey, was widely shared online to demonstrate the reality of coronavirus-fuelled panic-buying
A Sainsbury’s worker walks past a customer next to empty shelves at a Sainsbury’s store in Harpenden
The shelves are empty as panic buying continues at the Tesco Holmbush store in Shoreham
A shopper walks past empty shelves in a Lidl store after spates of ‘panic buying’ cleared supermarket shelves
People rushed to enter Waitrose as the shop opened in Clapham Junction on March 18, 2020 amid virus panic
Customers queuing at Costco in Croydon, south London on March 18, 2020 as virus panic swept the nation
There were lengthy queues outside a Saver Centre in Willesden, London on March 18, 2020 as virus frenzy took hold
Tesco became the latest supermarket to impose strict rationing measures on items like loo roll, soap and UHT milk to curb coronavirus panic-buying.
Britain’s grocery industry was struggling to keep shelves stocked in the face of stockpiling, which worsened that Tuesday despite weekend appeals for calm from supermarket bosses and politicians.
Sainsbury’s announced it was closing its in-store bakeries, meat, fish and pizza counters and cafes from Friday to free up lorry and warehouse capacity, and to free up more staff to stack shelves.
Aldi became the first UK grocer to introduce rationing, limiting customers to buying four items of any one product during each visit, while Morrisons was planning to create 3,500 new jobs and expand its home delivery operation.
March 18, 2020: Pound slumps to 35-year low against the US dollar as FTSE tumbles 5% – while Bank of England hints at further radical steps to tackle impact of Covid
Sterling dropped to 1.175 against the American currency, its lowest level since 1985
Mr Sunak was giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee as the Pound hit its low
The pound slumped to a 35-year low against the US dollar as the Chancellor’s £350billion coronavirus bailout failed to calm the markets.
Sterling dropped to 1.175 against the American currency, while the FTSE lost more than 5 per cent as it teetered on the edge of the psychologically important 5,000 level.
The grim slide for the Pound – to the lowest level since 1985 – came as Rishi Sunak defended his package for keeping the UK economy afloat amid the mounting crisis.
The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, refused to rule out direct financial payments to workers and business as he hinted it could take radical steps to tackle the impact of coronavirus.
Mr Bailey, who took on the top fiscal role only on the Monday, also urged businesses under threat to ‘talk to us’ or the Government about emergency funding before laying off staff.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Bailey said the ‘Bank of England’s not done’, amid speculation over whether it would consider a new form of so-called quantitative easing – effectively printing money – to boost the economy.
March 18, 2020: Boris FINALLY u-turns on testing as he vows to increase number done each to from 5,000 to 25,000
The PM said the number of tests a day will be increased from the current level of around 5,000 to 25,000
Two men wearing suits were pictured carrying a box from ThermoFisher outside Downing Street
However, it was reported the full ‘surge capacity’ might not be ready for another four weeks – by which time the deadly crisis was expected to be at its peak.
The Government was also still only planning to test patients in hospitals, although Mr Johnson pleaded with medical companies to help ‘rapidly’ develop a swab test that could be used in the community.
Routine testing of suspected coronavirus sufferers was abandoned the week before, when the Government said it was no longer possible to ‘contain’ the spread. Instead those with symptoms were being urged to stay at home for a fortnight.
March 18, 2020: Commuters urge TfL to INCREASE number of rush-hour services as millions endure packed trains
Keith Waller tweeted a pictured from a Tube train, saying: ‘So much for social distancing on the District line’
Commuters pack onto a Piccadilly line train as Underground commuters travel to work
Crowds of passengers wait for a Victoria line train at Seven Sisters station
Angry commuters urged Transport for London to increase the number of Underground trains during rush hour as up to two million Britons continued to travel in and out of the capital.
Confusion over Ministers’ position on pubs, cafes and restaurants remaining open left many in the workforce continuing to make journeys amid a desperation to maintain an income.
Travellers said they were still being packed in on rush hour services as TfL confirmed it was now ‘matching service levels to the actual demand for travel’.
Some said they had to wait up to 12 minutes for a train in Central London – far longer than normal – as people crowded platforms before making it onto trains.
March 18, 2020: ‘Professor Lockdown’ self-isolates with Covid symptoms following doomsday report predicting 500,000 deaths in event of no shutdown
Professor Neil Ferguson tweeted that he had entered self-isolation with Covid-19 symptoms
Professor Ferguson revealed he had fallen ill in a tweet
‘Professor Lockdown’ Neil Ferguson of Imperial College revealed on Twitter that he was in self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms.
He wrote: ‘Sigh. Developed a slight dry but persistent cough yesterday and self isolated even though I felt fine. Then developed high fever at 4am today. There is a lot of COVID-19 in Westminster.’
Professor Ferguson was one of the main authors of a paper which led to the Government ramping up its action plan.
His projection that 260,000 people could have died if officials had not announced social distancing measures was one of the driving forces behind more dramatic Government measures.
March 18, 2020: Meanwhile, around the world…
Global infection toll for Covid-19 tops 200,000
Cases of the highly contagious virus exceed 203,000, according to data compiled by the John Hopkins University
It came as coronavirus deaths in Europe exceed the toll in Asia for the first time
A worker disinfects a room at the Red Cross hospital in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province on March 18
Workers disinfect a corridor at the Red Cross hospital
The worldwide infection toll for coronavirus topped 200,000 after doubling in less than two weeks.
Cases of the highly contagious virus exceeded 203,000, according to data compiled by the John Hopkins University.
The global toll reached six figures on March 7, more than two months after the outbreak first began in Wuhan, China, in late December.
But another 100,000 people were infected in just 11 days since then, largely due to a surge in cases in Europe.
At least 160 countries and territories around the world had reported cases in every continent except Antarctica.
The John Hopkins University also recorded 8,006 deaths, suggesting around 4 per cent of patients who catch the virus die from it.
WHO says Covid-19 is killing the young as well as the old
Most of the 8,000 fatalities recorded across the world were people who were elderly or suffered underlying conditions
A young man wearing a face mask passes signs for a COVID -19 Clinic at St Vincent’s hospital on March 18
Bruce Aylward (pictured), International team lead for the WHO-China joint mission on COVID-19, said young people are, in fact, dying of the respiratory infection
The World Health Organisation warns that young, health people are dying from coronavirus but admit the elderly at most at risk of developing severe illness.
Dr Bruce Aylward, who assessed the pandemic in China, said there was an alarming number of young people who had developed complications from the disease.
An emergency doctor in Belgium revealed the shocking lung scans of ‘young, healthy people’, which he described as ‘nothing short of terrifying’.
Chinese health officials carried out the biggest ever study on the never-before-seen strain of the virus, using data from 72,000 cases. They found 19 per cent of patients who died were below the age of 60 years.
EU chief admits leaders ‘underestimated’ impact of Covid-19
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen admitted that political leaders had ‘underestimated’ coronavirus
Lithuanian border guards stand next to trucks on the border with Poland, with borders shut across Europe
Trucks were tailing back for more than six miles on the A12 motorway from the German town of Frankfurt
European leaders ‘underestimated’ the impact of coronavirus, the EU ‘s top official admitted as the bloc agreed to shut its borders.
Ursula von der Leyen said that ‘measures which seemed drastic two or three weeks ago need to be taken now’ as much of the continent went into lockdown.
The European Commission chief admitted that the virus ‘will keep us busy for a long time’, in an interview with Bild which was published on March 18, 2020.
European leaders had banned travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days to contain the spread of the virus and many governments were taking their own drastic measures.
Trump closes the border with Canada amid Covid fears
To curb the spread of the coronavirus, the US and Canada worked on a ban of non-essential travel to either country
President Trump said the agreement was reached through mutual consent with Canada
President Trump said the action was taken ‘by mutual consent’ and would not affect trade
President Donald Trump closed the northern US border with Canada, tweeting that ‘non-essential’ traffic would be banned.
‘We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!’ he tweeted.
Canada and the United States had worked out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
The President also tripled-down on calling the coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’ after Beijing expelled three US journalists from several major news outlets in retaliation for his use of the term.
Spain vows to close hotels and UK holidaymakers are told to leave
Spanish soldiers stand guard in Puerta del Sol in the capital Madrid, where the Spanish government has ordered a shutdown
Military personnel disinfect streets in Santiago de Compostela during the lockdown in Spain
British tourists were told to leave Spain within days after the Spanish government announced that all hotels would close the following Tuesday.
The Foreign Office warned British travellers to ‘make travel plans to return as soon as possible’ after Madrid announced the shutdown.
Holidaymakers were urged to ‘contact their tour operator or airline as soon as possible’ to make arrangements to fly home.
Spain had imposed a near-total lockdown and banned people from leaving their homes except to go to work, buy food or receive medical care.
Italy’s rate of infections slowed after implementing lockdown measures
This table shows the number of new coronavirus infections in Italy for every day since the virus began spreading there on Febraury 21. The numbers have flatlined in recent days, settling down at around 3,500 new cases every 24 hours
This graph shows the rate of increase in Italian coronavirus cases since March 7
Hospital workers prepare coffins at the Ponte San Pietro hospital in Bergamo, in the province of Lombardy
Italian coronavirus infections slowed after the country took drastic quarantine measures to stop the spread of the pathogen.
The number of daily cases in Italy was fairly stagnant over the past four days, settling down at around 3,500 new patients per day.
Wednesday’s increase in the overall tally was 12.6 per cent, the second-lowest rate since the virus began spreading in Italy on February 21 – offering hope that the lockdown is bearing fruit even as the death toll rose by 345 to 2,503.
Italians were ordered to stay indoors, with schools and universities shut, shops closed except for grocery stores and pharmacies, and heavy restrictions on travel.
China’s top Covid expert warns ‘herd immunity’ will not stop the virus
The Chinese senior medical adviser (pictured) rebuked the UK’s approach to allow citizens to catch the virus to build up a national tolerance strong enough to stop the virus circulating
The advisor said that the pattern of the outbreaks outside of China was similar to the trajectory of the outbreak in Wuhan
China’s top coronavirus expert warned that ‘herd immunity’ would not contain the global outbreak because the disease is too infectious and lethal.
The Chinese senior medical adviser rebuked Britain’s approach to allow citizens to catch the virus to build up a national tolerance strong enough to stop the disease circulating.
‘Herd immunity won’t solve the problem,’ Dr Zhong Nanshan said in a press conference. ‘We don’t have the evidence to prove that if you are infected once, you would be immune for life.’
‘Our next step is to develop effective vaccines, which requires global cooperation,’ he added.
North Korea claims there are ZERO cases in the country
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un says the country has had no cases of coronavirus, a claim experts greatly disputed
North Korea boasted that it had no cases of Covid-19, even as its neighbour to the north China experienced more than 3,200 deaths.
But some experts believed the claim was just a cover-up, with former CIA expert Jung H Pak telling Fox: ‘It’s impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus.’