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2020 in pictures: Coronavirus, lockdown, NHS claps, travel chaos and finally a vaccine

Less than a year ago, on January 23, we carried a story which began: "The spread of a deadly virus in China should be of real concern to Kent, according to an expert."

It continued: "The virus - a new strain of coronavirus which is yet to be given a name - has so far killed 17 people in China.

"And it could have already reached the UK with five patients being tested in Scottish hospitals after showing symptoms of the virus."

Few predicted the scale of the heartbreak and disruption that was to follow in the county and across the world because of Covid-19.

Two months later, Kent had recorded its first death from the virus and the whole country entered lockdown, where it has been - to varying degrees - ever since.

As infection rates continued to rise in December, there were signs of optimism as the first vaccines were administered in the county. Although it is the start of a long road, many are hoping it will lead to better things in 2021.

But people in the county suffered another setback just before Christmas, when Kent was put into stricter Tier 4 lockdown measures, forcing thousands to change their festive plans.

The pictures below tell the story of a year like no other we have seen - or hope to see again.

Hospitals across the county started opening assessment pods for suspected coronavirus patients in February, after the first cases were confirmed in the UK.
Hospitals across the county started opening assessment pods for suspected coronavirus patients in February, after the first cases were confirmed in the UK.
As fear of the virus begins to spread, Chinese student Wenbin Wu says he was racially abused during a day-trip to Margate in February by three teenagers who fake sneezed and shouted "coronavirus" as he walked past. The 27-year-old, who was studying at King's College London, says he got his phone out and threatened to call police.
As fear of the virus begins to spread, Chinese student Wenbin Wu says he was racially abused during a day-trip to Margate in February by three teenagers who fake sneezed and shouted "coronavirus" as he walked past. The 27-year-old, who was studying at King's College London, says he got his phone out and threatened to call police.
The first case of coronavirus - now named Covid-19 - is reported in Kent at the start of March after a business at Maidstone Studios confirmed one of its members of staff, who had recently returned from Italy, tested positive.
Construction workers at a housing site next to the studios immediately decided to leave when they heard the news.
Gerry Langan, 42, pictured, said they had decided to stop work on the new builds until more information was available.
The first case of coronavirus - now named Covid-19 - is reported in Kent at the start of March after a business at Maidstone Studios confirmed one of its members of staff, who had recently returned from Italy, tested positive. Construction workers at a housing site next to the studios immediately decided to leave when they heard the news. Gerry Langan, 42, pictured, said they had decided to stop work on the new builds until more information was available.
Reports emerge of empty shelves in stores across the county as people race to buy hand sanitiser.
Many stores start to limit the number of bottles that can be bought by individual customers.
Pictured is the display at Boots in Maidstone.
Reports emerge of empty shelves in stores across the county as people race to buy hand sanitiser. Many stores start to limit the number of bottles that can be bought by individual customers. Pictured is the display at Boots in Maidstone.
By the beginning of March, people began arriving early and queuing outside the county's supermarkets to get their hands on goods before the shelves emptied, amid reports of shoppers panic-buying items such as toilet rolls, pasta, long-life milk and soap.
This picture outside Aldi in Strood was typical of scenes across Kent. Picture: Julie Ali via Facebook.
By the beginning of March, people began arriving early and queuing outside the county's supermarkets to get their hands on goods before the shelves emptied, amid reports of shoppers panic-buying items such as toilet rolls, pasta, long-life milk and soap. This picture outside Aldi in Strood was typical of scenes across Kent. Picture: Julie Ali via Facebook.
Because of huge demand, some supermarkets started to reserve their first hour of opening for the over 70s and vulnerable people.
Among these was Sainsbury's in Sittingbourne, which still reported 200 people queuing outside waiting for it to open at 7am.
Customer Mike Grantham, 83, said: "I was about 10th in the queue and I understood that coming at this time they would have stock - but I got the last pack of toilet roll. I can't understand it. Some idiot somewhere in the world decided toilet rolls are a must. It does not give you diarrhoea, this thing."
Because of huge demand, some supermarkets started to reserve their first hour of opening for the over 70s and vulnerable people. Among these was Sainsbury's in Sittingbourne, which still reported 200 people queuing outside waiting for it to open at 7am. Customer Mike Grantham, 83, said: "I was about 10th in the queue and I understood that coming at this time they would have stock - but I got the last pack of toilet roll. I can't understand it. Some idiot somewhere in the world decided toilet rolls are a must. It does not give you diarrhoea, this thing."
A 64-year-old man from Medway became the first person in Kent to die on March 20 after testing positive for coronavirus.
He was being looked after at Medway Maritime Hospital and had underlying health conditions.
Two days later, grandmother Shirley Brown, 83, pictured, from St Mary's Platt, was the second person known to have died from Covid-19 in the county.
A 64-year-old man from Medway became the first person in Kent to die on March 20 after testing positive for coronavirus. He was being looked after at Medway Maritime Hospital and had underlying health conditions. Two days later, grandmother Shirley Brown, 83, pictured, from St Mary's Platt, was the second person known to have died from Covid-19 in the county.
Roads became quieter as we headed towards lockdown - here's the M20 on a Tuesday morning.
Roads became quieter as we headed towards lockdown - here's the M20 on a Tuesday morning.
Empty tables around The Parade in Margate despite the sunny weather.
Empty tables around The Parade in Margate despite the sunny weather.
Canterbury's usually bustling Buttermarket.
Canterbury's usually bustling Buttermarket.
Lockdown loiterers are discouraged by this taped-off bench on Sandgate seafront.
Lockdown loiterers are discouraged by this taped-off bench on Sandgate seafront.
As NHS staff voiced concerns over delays in providing them with adequate PPE, these workers at Darent Valley Hospital were pleased with this equipment donated by a nearby resident.
As NHS staff voiced concerns over delays in providing them with adequate PPE, these workers at Darent Valley Hospital were pleased with this equipment donated by a nearby resident.
Photographer Zak Waters embarked on a new photography project capturing portraits of residents in Folkestone during lockdown.
Photographer Zak Waters embarked on a new photography project capturing portraits of residents in Folkestone during lockdown.
Zak Waters' photo shows a family staying optimistic in lockdown.
Zak Waters' photo shows a family staying optimistic in lockdown.
Living through lockdown with a message of hope. Photo: Zak Waters.
Living through lockdown with a message of hope. Photo: Zak Waters.
Police out on patrol in Whitstable during lockdown.
Police out on patrol in Whitstable during lockdown.
As Kent's death toll rose, there was some happy news for Covid-19 patients among the tragedy.During his four-week fight with the virus Stephen Browne was placed on a ventilator and lost 60% of his muscle mass. But there were joyful scenes at Medway Maritime Hospital as the 56-year-old was discharged to a rehabilitation centre, with staff coming out into the corridors to cheer him.
As Kent's death toll rose, there was some happy news for Covid-19 patients among the tragedy.During his four-week fight with the virus Stephen Browne was placed on a ventilator and lost 60% of his muscle mass. But there were joyful scenes at Medway Maritime Hospital as the 56-year-old was discharged to a rehabilitation centre, with staff coming out into the corridors to cheer him.
Fif and Eve, with Joshua and Rafferty, were among thousands across Kent joining Clap for Carers every Thursday, to thank NHS staff and other key workers.
Fif and Eve, with Joshua and Rafferty, were among thousands across Kent joining Clap for Carers every Thursday, to thank NHS staff and other key workers.
Paela Smith from Maidstone even created a rainbow on washing day.
Paela Smith from Maidstone even created a rainbow on washing day.
Mahi Joshi from Medway took this picture of her daughter Rutvi spreading the safety message.
Mahi Joshi from Medway took this picture of her daughter Rutvi spreading the safety message.
The NHS logo was beamed onto the side of Rochester Castle as the Cathedral next door was lit blue for the Clap for Carers.
The NHS logo was beamed onto the side of Rochester Castle as the Cathedral next door was lit blue for the Clap for Carers.
As people adjusted to lockdown, the Romney Marsh Community Hub was among many across the county providing food and support to those in need.
As people adjusted to lockdown, the Romney Marsh Community Hub was among many across the county providing food and support to those in need.
A warning to motorists on the M20 as Easter approaches.
A warning to motorists on the M20 as Easter approaches.
By April, drive-thru test centres for Covid-19 had been set up at the county's hospitals - including Medway Maritime Hospital, pictured here - where NHS staff could be tested for coronavirus.
By April, drive-thru test centres for Covid-19 had been set up at the county's hospitals - including Medway Maritime Hospital, pictured here - where NHS staff could be tested for coronavirus.
As lockdown measures eased in May, many took the chance to enjoy more freedom and good weather in Kent's open spaces, such as these walkers on the promenade at The Leas, Minster, Sheppey.
As lockdown measures eased in May, many took the chance to enjoy more freedom and good weather in Kent's open spaces, such as these walkers on the promenade at The Leas, Minster, Sheppey.
Customers in Maidstone received very clear instructions over social distancing as shops re-opened.
Customers in Maidstone received very clear instructions over social distancing as shops re-opened.
Signs to remind shoppers of the need for social distancing were a common sight on high streets like Ashford.
Signs to remind shoppers of the need for social distancing were a common sight on high streets like Ashford.
Hairdressers and barbers had a very different look when their salons re-opened after lockdown, as stylist Lilly, from JM Hairdressing in Gravesend, shows.
Hairdressers and barbers had a very different look when their salons re-opened after lockdown, as stylist Lilly, from JM Hairdressing in Gravesend, shows.
The first Sunday Eucharist service at Canterbury Cathedral after lockdown was led by Archbishop Justin Welby. Chairs were arranged so people could social distance, hand sanitiser stations were found throughout and donations were accepted through card payment.
The first Sunday Eucharist service at Canterbury Cathedral after lockdown was led by Archbishop Justin Welby. Chairs were arranged so people could social distance, hand sanitiser stations were found throughout and donations were accepted through card payment.
Sgt Indra Grung, Cpl Naresh Rai, of The Royal Gurkha Rifles based at Sir John Moore Barracks in Shorncliffe, Folkestone, took part in a charity run around the camp over four days in aid of the NHS, to equal the distance of running form Lands End to John O’Groats.
Sgt Indra Grung, Cpl Naresh Rai, of The Royal Gurkha Rifles based at Sir John Moore Barracks in Shorncliffe, Folkestone, took part in a charity run around the camp over four days in aid of the NHS, to equal the distance of running form Lands End to John O’Groats.
A coronavirus test centre opened in Ashford in June, with other towns following across the county.
A coronavirus test centre opened in Ashford in June, with other towns following across the county.
A spell of hot weather in July led to large gatherings - and concerns over social distancing - on many Kent beaches. This picture was taken in Margate.
A spell of hot weather in July led to large gatherings - and concerns over social distancing - on many Kent beaches. This picture was taken in Margate.
Geoff and Betty Cloke enjoy a meal out in Gravesend as part of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, designed to bring people back to restaurants and cafes in August.Restaurant goers in the county enjoyed more than a million meals through the scheme.
Geoff and Betty Cloke enjoy a meal out in Gravesend as part of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, designed to bring people back to restaurants and cafes in August.Restaurant goers in the county enjoyed more than a million meals through the scheme.
Shoppers poured into Canterbury for the last day before the November lockdown began.
Shoppers poured into Canterbury for the last day before the November lockdown began.
Face masks, as worn by these shoppers on the Isle of Sheppey, became a common sight on Kent's high streets and shopping centres.
Face masks, as worn by these shoppers on the Isle of Sheppey, became a common sight on Kent's high streets and shopping centres.
Even Southeastern trains - along with their staff - were given face coverings.
Even Southeastern trains - along with their staff - were given face coverings.
With increased demand for masks, many took to making their own, including grandmother Pat Wilson who created more than a thousand material masks on her sewing machine in aid of the Martha Trust, a charity supporting adults with profound disabilities.
With increased demand for masks, many took to making their own, including grandmother Pat Wilson who created more than a thousand material masks on her sewing machine in aid of the Martha Trust, a charity supporting adults with profound disabilities.
With a vaccine approved, 80-year-old Kenneth Lamb was the first person in Kent to receive the new jab on Tuesday, December 8, at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. He said: "I didn't have to think twice".
With a vaccine approved, 80-year-old Kenneth Lamb was the first person in Kent to receive the new jab on Tuesday, December 8, at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. He said: "I didn't have to think twice".
Soaring case rates and fears over a new strain of the virus led to Kent being placed in a newly-created and stricter Tier 4 lockdown from midnight on Saturday, December 19. With non-essential shops forced to close again and usual Christmas activities restricted, this was the scene at the usually busy Bluewater shopping centre car park the following day.
Soaring case rates and fears over a new strain of the virus led to Kent being placed in a newly-created and stricter Tier 4 lockdown from midnight on Saturday, December 19. With non-essential shops forced to close again and usual Christmas activities restricted, this was the scene at the usually busy Bluewater shopping centre car park the following day.
There was more chaos to come as concern over the new Covid-19 strain led France to close its borders with the UK, leaving thousands of lorries stranded on Kent's roads. The entrance to the Port of Dover is pictured here.
There was more chaos to come as concern over the new Covid-19 strain led France to close its borders with the UK, leaving thousands of lorries stranded on Kent's roads. The entrance to the Port of Dover is pictured here.
Police had to hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover. Picture: PA
Police had to hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover. Picture: PA
People from across Kent rallied round to help stranded lorry drivers over Chrismas. David and Jan James gave out food to truckers stuck on the M20 near Ashford. A huge testing operation was put into place to clear the backlog.
People from across Kent rallied round to help stranded lorry drivers over Chrismas. David and Jan James gave out food to truckers stuck on the M20 near Ashford. A huge testing operation was put into place to clear the backlog.

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