Fifty stories that changed our county: The story so far of Covid-19 in Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants

The remarkable recovery of Gray-Finn Stevenson from coronavirus became a beacon of hope for people in our county.The remarkable recovery of Gray-Finn Stevenson from coronavirus became a beacon of hope for people in our county.
The remarkable recovery of Gray-Finn Stevenson from coronavirus became a beacon of hope for people in our county. | jpimedia
It's two months today since the first case of coronavirus was announced in Northamptonshire

On March 3, 2020, Northants Telegraph reporters heard the terrible news that we had feared for some weeks - the first case of coronavirus in our county had been confirmed.

Since then, we've published hundreds of Covid-19 articles to keep you up to date with the situation in north Northamptonshire. Here, in 50 stories, we chart how our county has coped through the global pandemic.

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1) It was the first local story we'd written about coronavirus. On February 13, with just nine confirmed cases in the UK, Kettering General Hospital was due to set up a coronavirus pod in its car park. It was part of the government's attempt to keep potential infected patients out of main hospitals.

Boris Johnson made a secret nighttime visit to KGH just weeks before he himself would be admitted to the hospital with symptoms of coronavirusBoris Johnson made a secret nighttime visit to KGH just weeks before he himself would be admitted to the hospital with symptoms of coronavirus
Boris Johnson made a secret nighttime visit to KGH just weeks before he himself would be admitted to the hospital with symptoms of coronavirus | jpimedia

2) Two days later, on February 15, Corby Urgent Care Centre closed suddenly and underwent a deep-clean. At that time only the Department of health was commenting on coronavirus, and they replied tersely that they ‘wouldn’t provide a running commentary on suspected cases’.

3) Pupils who’d been on a ski trip to northern Italy had returned to Southfield School in Kettering, following government advice that they didn’t need to isolate unless they were showing symptoms of coronavirus. What they couldn’t possibly have known at the time was that their base at Sestriere was just 85 miles by road from the edge of the Lombardy region - which would shortly after become the European epicentre of the outbreak.

4) In what would later become a notorious visit, PM Boris Johnson made a secret midnight trip to KGH to see for himself the pressures staff were under. The visit was not to talk about coronavirus, but rather to find out why the hospital is in such desperate need of a rebuild. Mr Johnson himself, just five weeks later, was taken to hospital suffering from the symptoms of the illness.

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5) An employee at RCI in Kettering was sent home to self-quarantine after returning from a ski-ing trip in Italy. Workers at the time reported 'unease' in the building. The government had changed its advice the day before to ask all those who had visited affected areas - symptomatic or not - to stay at home.

We told you about the amazing companies making a difference to the coronavirus epidemic in our countyWe told you about the amazing companies making a difference to the coronavirus epidemic in our county
We told you about the amazing companies making a difference to the coronavirus epidemic in our county | jpimedia

6) It was on March 3 that the virus was first detected in Northamptonshire when the Department for Health announced the very first case in our county. At the time, they refused to reveal exactly where it was, although they later said that the person had contracted the illness in Italy.

7) And two days later, the county's second case emerged as a member of the immediate family of the first case. There were still just 115 confirmed cases in the UK at that time, although the government admitted "it was highly likely the virus is going to spread in a significant way."

8) By March 10. there were five confirmed cases in Northamptonshire, all from the same two families. There had been two deaths nationally.

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9) A case of coronavirus was confirmed in a member of staff at a Desborough care home on March 11, before many people realised just how devastating the impact of the virus was going to become in our elderly population. It was one day later that the government announced it could no longer contain the virus and had moved from the containment phase of its response to the delay phase.

This temporary building will help KGH cope with an increased number of patients during the next six months.This temporary building will help KGH cope with an increased number of patients during the next six months.
This temporary building will help KGH cope with an increased number of patients during the next six months. | jpimedia

10) On March 12, Southfield School said they had identified a member of their school community that had contracted coronavirus and had closed the school for a deep clean. And it was on that day that the WHO confirmed that Covid-19 was now officially a global pandemic.

11) Local churches banned the sharing of communion wine and the sign of peace could no longer involve shaking hands.

12) The community response in our county kicked-in weeks before the government realised that people isolating might struggle to access food and support. One of the early-adopters of community covid help groups was Bryony Doughty who, on March 13, started the Facebook group Helping out Higham and Rushden to support those who were already self-isolating, or were suffering from symptoms or coronavirus.

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13) It was also on March 13 that KGH announced that it was restricting visiting to two hours per day, with no under-fives allowed in the hospital. It is now known that the hospital had taken in its first coronavirus patients during that same period.

KGH has treated hundreds of coronavirus patients.KGH has treated hundreds of coronavirus patients.
KGH has treated hundreds of coronavirus patients. | jpimedia

14) Elections for the county's two new unitary authorities were delayed by a year, a decision which was met with surprise.

15) By March 15, there were nine confirmed cases in the county and 1,400 across the country.

16) Amid a national handwash shortage, Northamptonshire headteachers blasted suppliers for profiteering from the crisis by raising prices of supplies.

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17) A few days later, the news that Kettering General Hospital had recorded its first coronavirus death reached our reporters. Tragically, Craig Ruston, who was just 45 and from Kettering became the UK's youngest victim of the virus. In a moving blog, called Me and my MND, Craig had documented his battle with motor neurone disease. Sadly Craig caught Covid-19 and died at KGH on March 16 - the county's first death officially attributed to the virus.

18) Amid all the terrible news that our reporters had to cover, our hearts were lifted by news of the amazing communities that had come together to help their neighbours. We told you of the groups that had sprung up around our county to help people get through the crisis.

19) A worker at Morrisons in Burton Latimer was confirmed as suffering from Covid-19 Kingswood School in Corby did the same. Later that day, PM Boris Johnson announced that all schools would close from the following Monday.

20) A worker at Morrisons in Burton Latimer was confirmed as suffering from Covid-19 and it began to become clear that life for thousands of logistics workers working at close quarters in our county might become very dangerous.

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21) To spread a little happiness around Corby, Daniel Morrison decided to dress as a stormtrooper and march the streets near his workplace in Occupation Road.

22) After pubs were shut, police visited nine licensed premises in Corby and offered words of advice to one which was still serving customers.

23) By March 23, there had been just 29 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Northamptonshire. We now know was that the figure was substantially higher because no community testing had happened for two weeks.

24) A family in Great Oakley put up their Christmas decorations to help people battle the coronavirus blues.

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25) On March 23 we told you about the cutting-edge Corby companies who were at the coalface of the fight against coronavirus

26) And then thousands of workers at firms across Corby, Kettering, East Northants and Wellingborough began to get in touch over fears for their own health after they had been expected to stay in work to fulfil what they said were non-essential roles. A huge proportion of people in our county work in logistics and manufacturing and, in the biggest response we have ever had to any story, more than 500 of them got in touch over a 48-hour period to ask us to beg their bosses to let them go home.

27) In response, many closed their doors including Fairline in Oundle and others were forced to improve social distancing and give their workers better PPE.

28) On March 26, Corby Business Academy announced it had to close for a deep clean following a positive coronavirus test.

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29) In just one week between March 21 and March 28, the number of cases in our county increased by five times and rose to 104.

30) And in just three days, more than 8,000 kind-hearted people from Northamptonshire joined the community resilience team to ensure that their neighbours could cope through the global pandemic.

31) The team at KGH announced they'd doubled the number of intensive care beds and were waiting for the 'tsunami' to strike.

32) April began with the awful announcement of four more deaths at KGH. There had so far been only one confirmed death at the hospital so the news came as a shock to local people.

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33) On the same day, we told you of the story of 91-year-old chip shop owner Derek Gunn, from Thrapston, who died with coronavirus . By now, the death toll in the UK had reached 2,000.

34) There was pride in Corby after it was announced that TATA would be manufacturing steel tubes for London's Nightingale hospital.

35) Corby went green for Grady-Finn Stevenson who was battling Covid-19 in KGH. Despite the odds, Grady fought off the illness and later went back home.

36) On April 3, seven people died at KGH, the most on any single day. Because of the way the figures were recorded, this only emerged later in the month.

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37) The sad news that four people had died at a care home in Stanwick came on April 9. The real death toll at our care homes remains unclear.

38) And also on April 9, the number of deaths in our county rose above 100.

39) There was a media storm when Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police Nick Adderley appeared to announce he would be searching shopping baskets to stop people flouting lockdown laws. He later clarified that he hadn't meant that.

40) Good Friday, April 10, brought our county's darkest day, when 17 coronavirus deaths were announced by KGH and NGH. It is now known that this was about the same time as the virus peaked in the UK.

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41) And on the same day it was announced that a former tip at Wollaston was to become a temporary motruary .

42) On April 13, a grim milestone was reached when it was announced there had been 100 coronavirus deaths in our county.

43) Our councils had paid out a huge £27m to help businesses through the global pandemic by April 17.

44) But on April 21, Northamptonshire County Council leader Matt Golby said he feared that the extra support from the government would not be enough, and that taxpayers would have to eventually pick up the bill. The authority later predicted a huge £27m black hole in its finances.

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45) On the same day, we revealed the help that local people were helping academics by using a symptom-tracker app that helps build a picture of the illness across the UK.

46) Professor Gilbert and her vaccine team at Oxford University could change the course of coronavirus across the whole world, and it was on April 24 that we told you how she had started out as a quiet Kettering schoolgirl.

47) It was on April 26 that a future after lockdown started to emerge, with KGH craning a new ward on to its car park to help it deal with the patients it was going to be treating over the next six months.

48) On April 29, the first figures were revealed about the extent of the coronavirus in our care homes as we told you that there had been 56 homes in Northamptonshire that had suffered outbreaks.

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49) A sombre milestone was passed in the number of deaths in our part of the county, as on April 30 we announced that the number who had passed away at KGH had reached the 100 mark.

50) On Friday, May 1, reporters were finally given access to local data that meant we could let you know the grim tally of deaths in each neighbourhood of Corby, East Northants, Kettering, and Wellingborough.

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