2020 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
COVID-19 is a pandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. This page will be updated as the situation develops.
A pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China was first reported to the World Health Organisation ('WHO') Country Office in China on 31 December 2019. It spread globally during early 2020. It was characterised by a rapid spread of flu-like symptoms with difficulty in breathing in severe cases, with increased mortality in those over 60 years of age and those with underlying health issues.
On 11 February the WHO announced "coronavirus disease (COVID-19)" as the name of this new disease. The virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak of 2003 although, while related, the two viruses are different.
On 11 March WHO characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, a global outbreak. During March it escalated quickly in Europe and elsewhere leading to several countries prohibiting international movement and ‘lockdowns’ in regions and countries, with measures for ‘social distancing’.
- On 5 March COVID-19 was listed as a notifiable disease in England. The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved governments had done so by 26 February.
- From 16 March the government began listing social distancing guidance advising large gatherings should not take place: it advised against all non-essential travel and social contact, to include working from home where possible and avoiding venues such as pubs, restaurants and theatres. These were updated daily with further restrictions requested (but not mandated) of individuals and organisations.
- On 18 March the government announced loan guarantees for some businesses following forecasts of a significant drop in business. For the hospitality and leisure sector there will be a business rates holiday and a £25k cash grant per retail and leisure business for those without specific pandemic insurance. This was subsequently extended to include other measures, including a 'furlough' scheme by which the government funded up to 80% of wages for laid off staff.
- On 23 March more severe measures closed the shops and resulted in a partial 'shutdown', with people told not to leave their homes.
- On 17 April the partial shutdown was extended for a further three weeks. The government pay scheme for furloughed workers was extended until the end of June and would be extended again "if necessary".
- On 22 April Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, said social distancing would have to stay in place until a vaccine was available, with “highly disruptive” distancing needed to be in place for “really quite a long period of time” and until at least the end of the year.
Timeline of events on the SVRSevern Valley Railway
The railway reopened in February 2020 as planned, operating between Bridgnorth and Bewdley only, due to repairs on Falling Sands Viaduct and track relaying between there and Bewdley Tunnel. It was intended to reopen the line throughout from 4 April.
The last public trains ran on Sunday 15 March. The SVRSevern Valley Railway monitored the developing situation daily and followed Government guidelines, considering the utmost importance was the safety and well-being of volunteers, staff and customers. Due to the changing situation Government advice also changed surrounding gatherings, to which the SVRSevern Valley Railway responded as it felt was necessary and sensible.
- 17 March: it postponed train services for the rest of the month.
- 18 March: it postponed train services and closed The Engine House and Refreshment Rooms for the rest of March and throughout April. It also cancelled the following events: Easter Holidays, Spring Steam Gala, Open House Weekend, Spring Diesel Festival and 50th Anniversary event.
- 20 March: it confirmed that the pubs at Kidderminster and Bridgnorth would close. It also launched an emergency appeal for funding to help the railway survive. By 24 March this had raised £50,000.
- 26 March: an updated appeal was launched for share purchases and donations, seeking £250,000 "to keep the Railway ticking over for the next three months".
- 2 April: the appeal reached £120,000.
- 9 April: the total closure was extended until at least the end of May.
- 15 April: the total closure was extended until at least the end of June, and the 1940s event cancelled.
- 16 April: the appeal reached £416,193.
- 30 April: the appeal passed £650,000.
Effects on the SVRSevern Valley Railway
The combination of February's flooding and land movements, the continuing planned work at Falling Sands and coronavirus and meant the SVRSevern Valley Railway was faced with a serious financial challenge. Three-quarters of paid staff were temporarily 'furloughed', volunteers instructed not to attend, and only minimal contract engineering work continued. The railway remained unconnected between Bewdley and Kidderminster..
The SVRSevern Valley Railway also announced it would not be able "to make our crucial annual investment into the Railway. This amounts to £4.5million, and funds essential restorations to our infrastructure and rolling stock, along with apprentice training and a desperately needed overhaul of our IT infrastructure".
- WHO, ‘Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it’ (Retrieved 18 March 2020)
- BBC News (Retrieved 18 March 2020)
- BBC Business, 'Coronavirus: Salary subsidy scheme extended into June', 17 April 2020 (Retrieved 18 April 2020)
- Mason, R. and Proctor, K., 'UK will need social distancing until at least end of year, says Whitty', The Guardian, 22 April 2020 (Retrieved 22 April 2020)
- Branch Lines, April 2020 (Retrieved 2 April 2020)
- Holden, M., Rail Advent 17 April 2020 (Retrieved 18 April 2020)