Descending on York’s Staycity hotel, medics dressed head-to-toe in hazmat suits were responding to Britain’s very first suspected case of Covid-19.
Today, with this county moving past the loss of 10,000 of its own and the nation mourning more than 100,000 lives claimed prematurely, The Yorkshire Post publishes a special report examining the far-reaching impacts of this deadly virus.
Today’s edition is dedicated to those who have lost their lives, and their families bereaved by their passing. It is also for those NHS workers and volunteers who have given so much of themselves in unspeakably harrowing circumstances, along with those scientists at the cutting edge of the development – and deployment – of Covid-19 vaccines.
We owe them a debt we cannot hope to repay.
But this edition is also one that respectfully calls for lessons to be learned immediately, to be followed swiftly by the formulation of an epidemiological strategy - underpinned by a sophisticated emergency action plan should the worst come to pass once again - that inspires faith in each and every one of us.
Recent photographs of the Prime Minister show a man weighed down by the heavy burden he carries – and few would question the fact that Boris Johnson finds himself in the most invidious of Prime Ministerial positions, certainly since the war.
But with respect, Prime Minister, we reject your belief – restated in Parliament this week as the UK death toll surpassed 100,000 – that now is not the time for an inquiry.
Quite the opposite. It is the sincerely-held view of this newspaper that now is absolutely the time for an inquiry, headed by a much respected public figure and panel of experts to be launched with the specific objective of learning the key lessons in order to ensure Britain’s readiness to deal with future pandemics.
Its remit would range from the availability of lifesaving PPE equipment and the length of time it takes to put in place testing procedures - for whatever pandemic may come next - to back-up plans for care homes, hospitals, schools - the whole of civic society - as well as working with laboratories, drugs companies, universities et al to explore whether or not the commendable speed with which our world-leading vaccine programme was rolled-out can be improved further.
Such a clearly defined and narrow focus – it will be for others to determine the precise parameters – is, however, critical if this country is going to find a safe way of functioning so it does not have to endure the social and economic paralysis of lockdowns for any longer than necessary.
Comparable in legal status to the Hillsborough Independent Panel presided over by Bishop James Jones, and which stands as an exemplar when it comes to such inquiries, this more immediate review of pandemic readiness will inform and enhance the far-reaching public inquiry that will begin at a future date, examining, amongst other matters, the decision-making of each and every person charged with and responsible for saving lives at a policy level.
No-one knew, on this weekend a year ago, that Britain was about to be plunged into a humanitarian crisis that would scar every community in every country around the world, for a generation to come.
But the responsible course of action has to be to instigate a ‘lessons learned’ review now, coupled with the appointment of a dedicated Minister for Global Health Security, to ensure that Britain is in a far better state of readiness than it was 12 months ago, now that so many contingency arrangements have been found to be so sorely inadequate.
This approach would also offer comfort to families mourning loved ones, as well as those tormented by their protracted physical separation from relatives, until more appropriate ways can be found to remember those claimed by Covid-19.
In so many ways, Prime Minister, the communities of this country have been strengthened in their resolve and relationships with one another, however, not one of us can go through this again.
So now, today - not tomorrow or the next day because, remember, over half of the deaths in this country have happened since November - is the moment to set about ensuring the UK is at the forefront of global biosecurity strategy, led by someone we trust, respect and, to reiterate, someone independent of politics.