The only predictable thing about 2020 has been its unpredictability. Yet, amid all the turmoil, one thing is absolutely certain: no tweet has aged as badly as this one.
Here’s a little reminder of what a “fantastic year” the UK is having.
2020 started with a bang, literally. The Foreign Office was forced to warn all British citizens against travelling to Iraq and Iran after a US drone strike in Baghdad killed Qasem Soleimani – one of Iran’s top military leaders. It briefly looked as if we would be winding the clock back to 2003, and following America into war in the Middle East.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, worn down by years of tabloid sniping, announced their intention to “step back” as “senior members” of the Royal Family. For many, it was a depressing reminder of the enduring intolerance of Britain’s institutions – especially its press.
Britain officially left the European Union on 31 January, amid much fanfare in central London. But the news was somewhat overshadowed – because on the very same day, the first two cases of coronavirus on UK shores were confirmed.
Everything from February onwards seems to melt into a Covid-induced blur. But that month alone, there was a terrorist attack in Streatham, the resignation of Sajid Javid, a government commitment to build HS2 and a shocking study showing that life expectancy in England had stalled for the first time in a century – due to austerity.
Then, on 28 February, the first British death from Covid-19 was confirmed – a man quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Because, of course, 2020 is a leap year – February had one last day of surprises. Sir Philip Rutnam – the Home Office’s top civil servant – resigned, and accused Priti Patel of bullying. Boris Johnson then announced that he and his partner, Carrie Symonds, were expecting a child and had got engaged. Lovely.
Everything else really was pushed to the back-burner in March. The first death in Britain occurred on 5 March. Less than a week later, the FTSE 100 plunged by more than 8 per cent – its largest one-day fall since 2008.
The Premier League season was suspended on 13 March, and a string of elections – including for the London mayoralty. The UK death toll almost doubled a day later, leaping from 11 to 21. The government draws heat for allegedly pursuing ‘herd immunity’.
Johnson urges against all non-essential travel on 16 March, as the death toll of the pandemic passes 55. The NHS pauses all non-urgent operations. The pound tumbles. Schools are closed a week later, and Glastonbury is cancelled.
Rishi Sunak is moved to announce the furlough scheme, part of an “unprecedented” move to protect jobs. Cafes, pubs and restaurants are closed on 20 March – theatres, clubs, cinemas and gyms soon follow suit.
In a televised address on 23 March, Britain goes into a country-wide lockdown. The death toll exceeds 400, and the Nightingale hospitals are announced. Within three days, Prince Charles, Matt Hancock and Johnson himself all test positive.
Sir Keir Starmer is elected leader of the Labour Party, a day before Johnson is admitted to hospital ten days after announcing he has Covid-19. The death toll passes 5,000. He is moved into intensive care the following day, with Dominic Raab – the foreign secretary – taking charge.
The death toll passes 10,000 as Britain relies on a 99-year-old war veteran, Captain Tom, to raise money for the NHS. It emerges that Johnson missed five COBRA meetings in the early stages of the pandemic.
ONS data reveals that the number of deaths in England and Wales has hit its highest point in 20 years. Vaccine trials begin. Johnson comes back to work after recovering at Chequers, and soon welcomes a son, Wilfred. The UK death toll becomes the second highest in Europe.
Britain overtakes Italy and becomes the country with the most coronavirus fatalities in Europe – at 32,313. The first trials of an NHS contact-tracing app begin on the Isle of Wight – it would take months to actually become available.
The Bank of England reveals that the economy is on course to shrink by 14 per cent in 2020 – plunging the UK into its deepest recession on record. Dominic Cummings drives to Durham – and is not sacked. “I don’t regret what I did,” he says in a remarkable Downing Street press conference.
Lockdown starts to be eased – and Sunak announces that the furlough scheme will end in October. Shielding individuals are allowed out their homes to see friends and family.
George Floyd is killed in the US by police, and thousands take to the streets in protest across the country.
The death toll approaches 50,000. A study reveals that Brits are having more trouble than ever sleeping.
A statue of slave trader Edward Colston is toppled in Bristol. Gavin Williamson says kids won’t go back to primary school before September.
The OECD reveals that the UK economy will be hardest-hit by Covid-19 among all other developed countries. NHS Test and Trace, led by Dido Harding, creaks into gear.
Far-right protestors clash with police. They claim to be protecting statues of Winston Churchill. Thousands flock to beaches on the South Coast as lockdown restrictions are eased. Leicester is put into the first local lockdown.
Cinemas, pubs, restaurants and more reopen. The government announces it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Face coverings are made mandatory in Scotland, but not England. A 1.2 square foot site is purchased in Ashford, Kent to hold 10,000 lorries after Brexit.
Mobile providers are ordered to remove Huawei tech from their equipment by 2027 over security fears. Johnson vows a “significant return to normality” by Christmas. The Russia report, long-delayed, is published.
An unnamed Tory MP is arrested on suspicion of rape. The hottest British day in 17 years is on 7 August, with temperatures passing 36 degrees Celsius. A train derails in Aberdeenshire.
The A-level algorithm fiasco leads to 40 per cent of students having predicted grades downgraded and missing university places. Government debt passes £2 trillion for the first time. The number of Covid cases starts to rise again after a quiet summer.
Britain eats out to help out.
Schools open. Construction begins on HS2. Ex-Australian PM Tony Abbott is appointed as a trade adviser.
The government publishes its Internal Market Bill – and admits it will “break international law” in a “very specific and limited way”.
More than 3,000 cases are recorded two days in a row, sparking the introduction of the “rule of six”. The second wave well and truly arrives.
Margaret Ferrier MP has a day out. The government threatens to walk away from Brexit talk, then rows back, then threatens again, then rows back again. Cases spiral. The wettest day on record.
The new tiered system of local lockdowns is announced. Greater Manchester mayor takes Andy Burnham to task. Household mixing is banned across much of the country.
And there’s more than two months left!
Related: Is Rishi Sunak losing his shine?