2020: The Year That Changed Britain - Tonight

Julie Etchingham explores the events of 2020 that the Tonight programme has covered in the year that changed Britain.

2020, the year that Covid-19 turned our world upside down, with so many suffering loss and hardship. Our freedoms have been curtailed and at the end of this month, we will be out of the transition period and officially out of the EU.

But now, with a vaccine on the horizon, there is hope.

In this ITV Tonight programme, Julie Etchingham looks back at the events of 2020 - the year that changed Britain.

Back in January, we spoke to Professor Jonathan Ball - who at the time, was expressing concern about the strange outbreak of pneumonia unfolding in China.

It's very difficult to know exactly how this will play out, but we may end up seeing lots of these infections arriving on our shores.

Professor Jonathan Ball, Nottingham University

Professor Jonathan Ball has featured frequently on Tonight this year covering Covid-19.

British expats in China were also giving us a glimpse into what was soon to become for the rest of us overseas. 

Including Kharn Lambert, who lived and worked in Wuhan as a P.E. teacher. At the time, he was visited by his nan, Vera, who had come over for Christmas. 

It’s always a constant worry when I go out to get stuff that I bring something back into the house. So if I do go out it's a total disinfection on everything. I keep grandma away from me.


Kharn and his nan Vera

By the time covid-19 had reached the UK, the virus was killing more than a thousand people a day in the UK at its height in April. 

Health and care workers were paying the ultimate price - and so were care home residents.

Back in April we spoke to Sandie, manager of Baylham Care Centre. Sandie’s team were looking after 55 residents, many aged over 80, with complex health conditions like dementia.

Are we facing a care home crisis in the private sector? Absolutely, like never before, we are really working flat out to ensure that everyone’s loved ones are cared for.

Sandie, Baylham Care Centre

More than a third of Covid deaths were in the care home sector, according to a new study by Manchester University.

By the summer lockdown was eased and people were being encouraged to get some normality back in their lives with schemes like Eat Out to Help Out, some people question whether this was the right thing to do.

The first lockdown that we had unquestionably was successful in suppressing the virus in our communities. But the big mistake was Eat Out to Help Out because as we got the virus down through the summer what we then did was encourage everybody to go out and return to life as normal.

Dr Richard Horton, The Lancet

Tonight contacted the Government, who told us:

This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have been working tirelessly, taking the right steps at the right time to deliver a strategy to protect our NHS and save lives and livelihoods.

We have been guided by the advice of experts. We have built the largest diagnostic testing system in British history from scratch, helping to stop the spread of coronavirus through NHS Test and Trace, and have taken a huge step forward in our fight against the virus, securing 357 million doses of potential vaccines.

With cases back on the rise, the hospitality industry had to take another hit, with more restrictions looming. 

In October, we spoke to Rebecca Brayshaw, who owns a bar in Bolton - they have had some of the longest running restrictions in the country. 

I describe it sometimes as being almost like in a doomsday, I kind of sit one day with my head in my hands thinking, what, what how …how can we ever get out of this?

Rebecca Brayshaw, The Little Bolton Town Hall

Rebecca, along with many others, will lose out on the lucrative Christmas season that normally keeps them afloat. The toll isn’t just financial.

My biggest fear is actually mental health. You know the pressure of operators and employees within my sector who have frankly been on a rollercoaster since March. It has ruined marriages, relationships, communities and I think it could take quite a few years to recover from that.

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Adviser

So when might we all be able to return to our old lives?

Remember Kharn, who left China to bring his nan back to the UK - well he is now back home, in Wuhan.

Everything is how it was before. My life is the same as it was before the Pandemic here. I’m out in the bars with my friends every weekend. I go for meals during the week. There’s no social distancing any more.


ITV Tonight’s ‘2020: The Year That Changed Britain’ with Julie Etchingham is on ITV this Thursday (December 17th) at 7:30pm.Financial Support if your work has been affected by coronavirus: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/worker-supportFinancial Support if your business has been affected by coronavirus: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19