On the evening of 29 January last year, a 23-year-old Chinese student at the University of York called NHS 111 because he was feeling unwell. The man was staying in a York hotel and was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 – a fever, a dry cough and muscle pain. Along with his parents, who were visiting from Wuhan, where the virus is thought to have originated, the man was picked up by Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedics wearing hazmat suits and taken to a secure ward at the region’s infectious diseases unit at Castle Hill Hospital, Hull, to be tested.
The next day, the York student and his mother became the UK’s first confirmed cases.
More than a year on, York is still subdued on a half-term Saturday morning that would normally see it heaving with visitors. Covid-19 travel restrictions mean there are almost none, even outside the Minister, the city’s biggest draw.
The market square is a quarter full. Only food is for sale. But it is a focal point nonetheless as shoppers hope more stalls will reopen soon. “People are coming to the market just for something to do. It’s like a day out for them,” says John Cartwright, the manager of Sheila’s fruit and veg stall. “The vaccine seems to be doing well and we’re doin