15 most frustrating and bizarre moments a year on from the first UK lockdown

Charlie Duffield
Tuesday 23 March 2021 10:35
news

It’s been a whole year since the very first UK lockdown began on 23 March 2020

(PA)

It’s been a whole year since the very first UK lockdown began on 23 March 2020, after coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

From Zoom parties and panic buying, to face masks and daily press briefings –and so, so much more – life has changed in a myriad of weird and often not so wonderful ways.

If you fancy a trip down memory lane (do you?), here are some of the most memorable, frustrating and frankly bizarre moments from the past twelve months of the pandemic which deserve recognition... or at least a little laugh.

Boris Johnson bragging about shaking hands

It was a big moment when Boris Johnson tested positive for coronavirus, and was subsequently treated in hospital - a moment which many felt brought home the seriousness of the pandemic and how it really did not discriminate.

But people also couldn’t help but remember that the PM had bragged to reporters at a coronavirus briefing – back when reporters could still attend them in person – that he had shaken hands with coronavirus patients during a visit to a hospital – which he definitely shouldn’t have been doing.

Tiger King

When the first lockdown hit, the one thing that proved to be a vital distraction was Netflix’s true-crime series Tiger King, a show about the feud between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, two big cat owners in the United States, which ended in a conspiracy to murder. 

Despite the initial excitement, it turned out to be quite a grim tale indeed, and, arguably, perhaps not worth our precious binge-watching time after all. Little did we know that we’d have a whole year to while away endless hours on Netflix...

Houseparty

During the halcyon days of an unprecedented amount of time indoors, the video messaging app Houseparty saw a brief surge in popularity.

It allowed you to add your friends and throw “parties” with them, when all in the same video conversation. Then you could play games like Quick Draw, Trivia and Heads Up.

However, as the pandemic dragged on, with screen fatigue becoming a daily part of life, we all began to fantasise about real parties instead and any initial enthusiasm for the video app plummeted.

When Trump said disinfectant could cure covid-19

Then-US President Donald Trump really did have plenty of questionable moments during the pandemic, but the most bizarre – and let’s face it, dangerous – was when he suggested during a press conference that people could inject themselves with disinfectant to tackle coronavirus, as well as expose themselves to UV light.

He was rightly lambasted by the medical community, and soon enough ‘Dettol’ and ‘Cillit Bang’ were trending on Twitter in mockery of his nonsensical ramblings.

Dancing the conga

While the government encouraged everyone to maintain social distancing, one incident of apparent rule-breaking early in the lockdown sparked a lot of controversy.

Back in May, villagers in Grappenhall, near Warrington were recorded dancing in a conga line to celebrate VE day. The video angered many social media users, who called the incident “breathtakingly stupid”.

Park life policing

The local park is now the focal point of our much-reduced social interaction; it’s the only place to go, for your daily walk, for a socially-distanced walking date or, if you’re really lucky, to sit two metres apart on a bench.

During the first lockdown, fed-up police took matters into their own hands and posted drone footage on social media to shame hikers and dog walkers making “non-essential” trips to the Peak District.

Chief Political Correspondent at the Financial Times Jim Pickard branded it “the weirdest moment of covid-2020” and described the cops as “power-crazed”.

Barnard Castle

Who could forget Dominic Cummings’ lockdown visit to Barnard Castle, allegedly to “test his eyesight”? It stirred up rage and controversy and led to a surreal press conference in the Downing Street rose garden, which really put a boot in the mantra that we were “all in this together”.

The prime minister’s chief aide insisted he had done nothing wrong, but police complained it was a turning point in the public’s adherence to lockdown rules.

The historical market town of Barnard Castle has since become a place of pilgrimage, with tourists flocking to the town for selfies outside the local Specsavers and in front of the town’s “welcome” sign. 

Eat out to Help Out

The Tories love a good slogan and Chancellor Rishi Sunak treated us all to a fully formed innuendo when he launched his summer eating scheme, which allowed people to get £10 off a restaurant meal in August.

It saw millions of customers claim discounts, and we all had a jolly time socialising again, but the scheme was also linked to a rise in coronavirus cases.

What is an established relationship?

The coronavirus restrictions have been good for co-habiting couples...and no one else really - and if thirsty singletons weren’t sad enough about being banned from intimate relations, they then had to endure Matt Hancock awkwardly making his way through an exchange about the technicalities of having sex in a pandemic.

When Sky presenter Kay Burley challenged him over what exactly the parameters of an “established relationship” were, he responded: “I think we should stick to the letter of it, which is it is okay in an established relationship.”

Mr Hancock, who is married, joked: “I know I am in an established relationship”.

And you aren’t alone in wondering how on earth that happened.

Is a scotch egg a substantial meal?

As the UK came out of its second lockdown – and different areas entered the much loathed tier system – confusion arose as to what counted as a substantial meal in pubs.

Under Covid-19 rules, those wanting to visit their local pubs had to order a “substantial meal” alongside their beverage of choice - so not just a plate of chips or some salted peanuts.

People suddenly got obsessed with scotch eggs after environment secretary George Eustice suggested it was a substantial meal. That, in turn, sparked a huge debate about the best pub snack, and triggered what was arguably one of the biggest divisions in Cabinet of the whole pandemic, with every politician and his dog wanting a say on the tasty snack.

The postcode checker crash

When the government announced which tier system areas would enter into from 2 December, it rolled out a new “postcode checker”, for people to easily see whether their local areas was in Tier 1,2 or 3.

But, mere minutes after the postcode checker was launched, it crashed - which many said summed up the whole shambolic handling of the tiers system.

‘Christmas is cancelled’

After Boris Johnson insisted that families would be able to see each other and mix indoors for Christmas, the disappointment and frustration was palpable when he announced yet another U-turn.

Days before Christmas, and after everyone had made plans, but with Covid-19 cases skyrocketing, Johnson moved huge swathes of the country into Tier 4, issuing a “stay at home” order with travel only permitted for essential reasons.

Whilst some defied the rules and fled to the families across the country regardless, others faced up to spending the festive season alone.

‘We did everything we could’

When it was announced that more than 100,000 citizens had tragically died from the virus in the UK, Boris Johnson claimed his government “did everything we could”.

Critics hit back - accusing Johnson of repeatedly acting far too late, and ignoring scientific advice on lockdowns.

Nightclubs

On 22 February, Boris Johnson unveiled a very lengthy roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions across England.

When he mentioned that, on 21 June, he hoped to reopen nightclubs and lift restrictions on certain events and performances, a wave of euphoria engulfed the internet.

After a year of social distancing, for many nothing sounds better than the thought of dancing in a sweaty, crowded club to pounding music.

Who knows if the relaxation of restrictions will really happen as planned, but when the dancefloors reopen, we’ll be more than ready.

The Rishi Sunak Show

Recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was mercilessly ridiculed on social media after sharing a video of himself, ahead of his budget announcement, which one person described as “enormous Head boy energy”.

He shared the film, entitled “The 12 Months to Budget 2021”, with the caption: “My priority was, is and always will be jobs”. But in the video, he centres himself – quite literally – in the frame.

The video was described as “self-indulgent codswallop”, but it didn’t stop it being all-too watchable.

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