Some 14 months on from when coronavirus restrictions have finally come to an end in England, with 19 July ‘freedom day’ marking the first step in the return to normality.
While the restoring of freedoms has been a long-time coming, this final stage of lifting restrictions hasn’t been quite the celebratory day we’ve all been hoping for. Removing restrictions comes fraught with warnings to continue life with caution, to maintain the wearing of face masks in crowded and enclosed spaces, and to be mindful of mingling too closely with the vulnerable. Professor Chris Whitty has warned the UK is far from being out of the woods yet and with coronavirus cases still rising, it is expected that hospitalisation will surge over the coming weeks. But the vaccination programme does offer some hope in keeping cases under control and allowing the freedoms restored on 19 July to be enjoyed. As we move into this next unpredictable phase, here’s a look back on some of the weirdest, sometimes wonderful, and downright surreal moments that we have faced over the course of the pandemic.
1. The battle for toilet roll
When disaster strikes, the British public decided it was a top priority to stock up on toilet roll supplies. The result? Supermarket shelves sitting empty for weeks on end and everyone scrambling for the last roll when limited stock eventually resurfaced. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS
2. The great stockpiling bonanza
Who knew tinned cans of beans, soup and hot dogs would be so essential in a pandemic? Pasta was almost impossible to come by as well, with shops left barren by panicked stockpilers. Photo: OLI SCARFF
3. Face masks became the must-have accessory
Wearing a face mask has become so ingrained as part of everyday life that it has now made its way on the checklist before venturing out. Keys? Check. Money? Check. Face mask? Check. Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N
4. Home and work life blended into one
With offices closed, everyone was forced to make the best of it and pitch up the laptop on the kitchen table or spare room for the foreseeable. Little did we know that it would last long beyond that initial three-week plan. Photo: Shutterstock