It is a struggle to comprehend that as little as four months ago, most of us had never uttered the phrase 'coronavirus' - let alone, knew what it meant.

On New Year's Eve, residents across Basingstoke and Andover rang in the new decade with fireworks and celebrations with no idea at what was coming ahead. 

A mystery illness began moving its way through the Chinese city of Wuhan and on December 31, authorities alerted the World Health Organisation after a number of people fell ill with viral pneumonia.  

Four months on, this deadly virus - which we now know as Covid-19 - has claimed the lives of 164,565 people worldwide and left 2.4million people infected. 

And Hampshire has been one of the worst affected regions in the UK, with more than 1,500 cases at the time of writing and hundreds of deaths. 

Here, we look back on the key moments over recent weeks as Covid-19 rocked the globe...

December 31 2019

The Chinese authorities inform the World Health Organisation of a new illness in Wuhan, a city with a population of 11million people in the Hubei province. It comes after a viral pneumonia caused 27 people to become unwell, leaving seven in critical care. The outbreak is traced to a “wet” market selling live wild animals.

The prime minister Boris Johnson is holidaying in the Caribbean resort of Mustique with his fiancé, the former communications director of the Conservative Party, Carrie Symonds.

Tuesday, January 7

Chinese authorities identify the cause of the infection as a new type of coronavirus - a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Scientists say the risk of human transmission is low. At this stage, Chinese officials say the disease is spread via animals.

Thursday, January 16

Professor Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, calls for swift action to be taken regarding the virus. Posting to Twitter, the professor writes: “Been asked by journalists how serious #WuhanPneumonia outbreak is. My answer: take it very serious because of cross-border spread (planes means bugs travel far and fast), likely human-to-human transmission and previous outbreaks have taught overresponding is better than delaying action.”

Friday, January 24

The British government holds a Cobra meeting to discuss the threat of this new coronavirus. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, chairs the meeting. Afterwards he tells reporters the risk to the UK public is ‘low’. The prime minister Boris Johnson is absent from this meeting.

The Chinese medical journal The Lancet publishes a study on that day suggesting that the virus could be as lethal at the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50million people.

Friday, January 31

The first cases are reported in the UK when two members of the same family – a University of York student and a relative – test positive for the virus.

They had recently travelled to the UK from China and were staying at the Staycity apartment-hotel in York when they fell ill.

They are taken to Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary for treatment.

Thursday, February 6

A third person in the UK is diagnosed in Brighton and transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London.

It later emerges that the patient, businessman Steve Walsh, contracted the virus at a conference in Singapore.

On his way back to the UK, he stopped off for several days at a French ski chalet, where five Britons were subsequently infected with the virus.

Sunday, February 9

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty says a fourth person has been diagnosed in the UK, who is believed to be a contact of Mr Walsh.

It is later confirmed that the virus was passed on in France.

Wednesday, February 18

Chineham Medical Centre on Reading Road is closed for the day on the orders of Public Health England after someone displaying symptoms visited the practice.

The practice undergoes a deep clean with a team of cleaners in hazmat suits scrubbing the doctor’s surgery.

Basingstoke Gazette: Chineham Medical Practice undergoes a deep cleanChineham Medical Practice undergoes a deep clean

Cllr Paul Miller said he wanted to reassure the public there was nothing to worry about.

He said: “All this worry about coronavirus has been completely off the mark.”

The practice reopens on February 20.

Monday, March 2

Boris Johnson attends his first Cobra meeting about coronavirus.

Thursday, March 5

Coronavirus claims its first known victim in the UK. A woman in her 70s dies at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Saturday, March 7

A grandfather who has unknowingly tested positive for Covid-19 attends Andover Leisure Centre on Saturday afternoon to collect his grandchild.

Sunday, March 8

The grandfather contacts Andover Leisure Centre and the swimming pool is closed off to the public while a deep clean takes place.

The site is closed all day as a team arrive in hazmat suits to clean the venue.

This is the first known coronavirus case in Andover.

Monday, March 9

Two Basingstoke employees at Lavazza Coffee test positive for Covid-19. The company does not close its sites but says in a statement that a deep clean is carried out on the floor where the employees worked.

City bankers from JP Morgan who ordinarily work in Canary Wharf in London are relocated to the American firm’s Basingstoke office in Jay Close, Viables.

The Gazette and Advertiser editorial team start to work from home.

Basingstoke Gazette: JP Morgan staff arrive in BasingstokeJP Morgan staff arrive in Basingstoke

Basingstoke Gazette: JP Morgan staff arrive in BasingstokeJP Morgan staff arrive in Basingstoke

Tuesday, March 10

More than 240,000 spectators attend The Cheltenham Festival over a four-day period, despite concerns about the spread of the virus.

Health minister Nadine Dorries is the first British MP to test positive for Covid-19.

Wednesday, March 11

Coronavirus is declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. US president Donald Trump announces a ban of travellers from Europe, except the UK.

Thousands of fans turn out for the Liverpool against Atletico Madrid match – despite Spain’s burgeoning outbreak.

In Basingstoke, a case of coronavirus has been confirmed at Oakridge House Care Home on Jefferson Road. Despite the outbreak, staff are not tested for coronavirus. 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Thursday, March 12

A whistleblower who works at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital speaks out about a critical lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) after fearing for the safety of themselves and their employees.

Basingstoke Gazette: Basingstoke Hospital Basingstoke Hospital

In a chilling account, the employee reveals nurses and doctors are being forced to treat Covid-19 patients without PPE. The employee described chaotic scenes at the hospital where a patient displaying symptoms of Covid-19 was moved onto a ward of critically ill patients.

The hospital trust issues a strongly worded statement but does not deny the claims. It says its employees were given the right amount of PPE. In the weeks that followed, the lack of PPE becomes a national crisis. The Gazette stands by its story.  

Friday, March 13

Top-level football is suspended in England, Scotland and Wales. Some European countries begin to ban public gatherings.

Wednesday, March 18

Schools across Basingstoke and Andover begin to close down as the pandemic causes staffing shortages with teachers self-isolating. A number of secondary schools such as Costello and Everest close stay open for certain year groups only and vulnerable children.

PM Boris Johnson announces schools and nurseries will close on March 20. Only the children of key workers or those who are vulnerable will continue attending school.

Glastonbury Festival, due to take place in June, is cancelled.

Friday, March 20

Pubs, restaurants and most shops are ordered to close to customers from midnight.

In Basingstoke, a handful of last-minute punters head out for their final pint in a pub for some time.

Saturday, March 21

Photographs show queues of people at supermarkets while the countryside is ‘overrun’ with walkers and day-trippers. The government comes under criticism for not being clear about the social distancing advice.

Monday, March 23  

Boris Johnson addresses the nation via a television broadcast and introduces lockdown measures, weeks behind Ireland, Italy and France.

The measures are unprecedented. People are now told they should only be leaving their homes for essential reasons. The move is supported by 93 per cent of the public, according to a YouGov poll.

Wednesday, March 25

Prince Charles tests positive for Covid-19 but only displays ‘mild symptoms’.

Thursday, March 26

There are emotional scenes across Basingstoke and Andover when hundreds of residents take to their doorsteps for the first ‘Clap For Carers’ event. At 8pm, applause rings out from all over the county.

The Gazette and Advertiser launches its Support Our Guaridan Angels fund to raise cash for NHS staff during this challenging time.

Basingstoke Gazette:

To date, the total amount raised is here. Please do donate if you haven't already. 

Friday, March 27

A Basingstoke paramedic is moved to tears after her neighbours bake her a cake and leave it on her car and break into spontaneous applause for her as she heads out for her shift.

I just love where we live, everyone in our street united to wave Tayla off on her paramedic shift tonight just the boost she needed 🥰 The heroes chocolates and homemade cake were a lovely touch too xx We could hear the applause all the way up Queens Road too

Posted by Ali Porter on Thursday, 26 March 2020

Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock test positive for Covid-19. Chief medical officer Christopher Whitty says he has symptoms and is self-isolating.

Saturday, March 28

The first NHS worker dies from coronavirus consultant Amged El-Hawrani. The 55-year-old had been working on the frontline in the crisis.

The UK death toll in hospitals passes 1,000.

The Gazette reveals plans to build a ‘Nightingale’ hospital in Basingstoke to help Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust cope with the number of Covid-19 patients.

Monday, March 30

Coronavirus claims the life of its youngest victim in the UK to date. Tragically, thirteen-year-old  Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, from London, dies alone in hospital after contracting the disease.

Tuesday, March 31

Basingstoke grandmother Helen Gent, 92, from Winklebury, makes a full recovery from coronavirus after being treated at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital. Her granddaughter said she is made of “strong stuff”.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Wednesday, April 1

There is a large police presence in Basingstoke after a group of around 40 men are seen congregating at Beggarwood Park, flouting social distancing rules. Despite the commotion, no one is arrested and an air rifle is seized.

Thursday, April 2

Hampshire is one of the worst affected regions by coronavirus. The county has more cases than anywhere in the country, outside of London. 

Basingstoke hospital develops a superfast test for Covid-19, which is faster than any other tests around the country. It is now set to be rolled out around the UK.

Friday, April 3

Newsquest, the Gazette and Advertiser’s company, launches a national campaign raising money for NHS Charities’ urgent Covid-19 appeal. This money will be used to support frontline workers.

Saturday, April 4

The traditional Easter holidays begin in Basingstoke and Andover with gloriously nice weather. The police complain about sunbathers and people flouting social distancing measures at Anton Lakes in Andover. 

Basingstoke Gazette:

Sunday, April 5

The Queen addresses the nation in a pre-recorded television broadcast. Movingly, she praises the public and tells the 24 million viewers: “We’ll meet again”, evoking the Blitz spirit from the Second World War.

Ten days after announcing he contracted the virus, Boris Johnson is admitted to St Thomas’s Hospital in London as his severe fever persists.

Basingstoke Gazette: Boris Johnson is taken to hospital with severe Covid-19 symptomsBoris Johnson is taken to hospital with severe Covid-19 symptoms

Monday, April 6

The PM is moved into intensive care.

In Basingstoke, a number of residents test positive for coronavirus at Homefield House Care Home. A concerned source contacted the Gazette to raise the alarm after a carer came down with symptoms after working at the home.

They said: "A carer has coronavirus symptoms and is self-isolating. They have a temperature and a cough, it's not good.

“A carer was told three of their residents had coronavirus, out of a capacity of 20 residents."

Basingstoke Gazette:

Wednesday, April 7

The Gazette breaks the news that the Apollo Hotel in Basingstoke is to be used as a ‘Nightingale’ hospital to support Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital during the pandemic.

The 125-bed facility will be used as a recovery ward to free up beds at the main hospital, less than a five minute drive away.

Saturday, April 10

Tributes are paid to Basingstoke cricketer Lee Nurse who has died at the age of 43 from coronavirus. The sportsman had no underlying symptoms and was described by relatives as fit and healthy.

Monday, April 12

The chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals, who runs Basingstoke and Andover hospitals, said there is "no PPE shortages" at any of their sites.

Alex Whitfield said that after a “tight” period in the early days of the virus – around the time the Gazette published the whistleblower’s account on March 12 – batches were coming through thick and fast.  

Tuesday, April 14

A Covid-19 assessment centre is set up next to Russell Howard park in Basingstoke. The centre will not be used for mass testing but for coronavirus patients suffering severe symptoms to be treated.

Retired children’s doctor Dr Judith Darmady OBE dies at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital after contracting coronavirus. The popular medic, who saved ‘thousands of lives’ over the course of her successful career, was 84.

Thursday, April 15

A worker at the Royal Mail delivery office in Basingstoke tests positive for Covid-19. Workers speak out to the Gazette about fears for their safety after not being given any PPE.

Saturday, April 18

The total number of deaths at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and Winchester hospital now stands at 89.

Sunday, April 19

As of Sunday night, at 8pm, there are 2.4million cases worldwide. The death toll stands at 164,565 while 615,668 people have recovered.

In the UK, 16,060 people have died in hospitals while 120,000 people have tested positive for the disease.

In Hampshire, there are 2,122 confirmed cases while 1,572 people have died in the South East.

This true death toll in the UK is thought to be much higher as it does not include those who died at home or in care homes.