The 10 things we wanted to know about COVID in 2020

Ross McGuinness
·7-min read
Coronavirus outbreak in UK and worldwide health crisis. Woman wearing UK British flag face mask against infectious diseases 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Conceptual portrait of Protection against Covid-19.
Britons wanted to find out everything there was to know about coronavirus this year. (Getty)

The world had one thing on its mind above all else in 2020: coronavirus.

And that has been reflected in the year’s most popular online searches.

According to Yahoo Search data, coronavirus was unsurprisingly the top trend among UK web users in 2020.

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However, while back in January and February, Britons were simply searching online to find out what coronavirus was, throughout the rest of the year they wanted to know the specifics surrounding it.

This meant online searches for a range of COVID-related topics, as the public tried to find out what the pandemic meant for their daily lives.

The top 10 COVID-19 search terms include face masks, travel rules, vaccine and lockdown.

As part of the NHS birthday celebrations, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Annemarie Plas, founder of Clap For Our Carers, outside 10 Downing Street, London, join in the pause for applause to salute the NHS 72nd birthday.
Prime minister Boris Johnson and Annemarie Plas, the creator of the clap for carers, show their appreciation for NHS workers outside 10 Downing Street. (PA)
File photo dated 3/8/2020 of a man passing a sign advertising the 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme. Three men have been arrested on suspicion of fraud relating to the Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said.
The Eat Out To Help Out was introduced in August. (PA)
 Social Distancing 2M sign seen in central London. England is in the second national lockdown in until Wednesday 2 December, to control the spread of coronavirus cases. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Britons had to get to grips with social distancing rules. (PA)

Some of the searches just outside the top 10 were key workers, as web users wanted to discover who was exempt from much of the restrictions, as well as clap for carers - the weekly national show of appreciation for health workers on Thursday evenings at the beginning of the first lockdown.

The government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, which tried to give a boost to the hospitality industry but was later accused of exacerbating the spread of the virus, was also one of the top 20 searches, along with school closures, the 2m social distancing rule and volunteering.

Here is the list of the top 10 online searches this year relating to coronavirus:

1 Lockdown

Social distancing signs and Christmas decorations in Covent Garden, London, as as England continues a four week national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. Picture date: Tuesday November 24, 2020. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Lockdown was the most searched term relating to COVID-19 this year. (PA)

England’s first national lockdown was announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on 23 March, as he told the country to “stay at home”.

The lockdown was eased gradually until pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen on 4 July.

But online searches for lockdown would spike again later in the year, when England went into a second lockdown from 5 November to 2 December.

2 Grocery delivery

Man courier delivering shopping to senior woman with face mask, corona virus and quarantine concept.
Food delivery was a major cause of concern for many Britons during the coronavirus pandemic. (Getty)

One of Britons’ major concerns, particularly during the first lockdown, was getting food.

The major supermarkets were forced to introduce new rules to combat panic buying, as the nation went online to fight for booking slots.

Ahead of the second lockdown, delivery slots started booking out faster than usual once more.

3 Face masks

Face masks for sale during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, are displayed at a shop in the centre of Warrington, north west England on December 1, 2020, as non essential retailers prepare to reopen following a second national lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus. - England will re-enter a tiered system of toughened regional restrictions to help contain the spread of COVID-19, when the current lockdown expires on December 2, bolstered by major testing programmes in areas with the highest rates. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Britons have had to learn face mask etiquette during the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP via Getty)

The fierce debate around face masks was one of the features of the pandemic, and it was one of the most popular online searches because the public was desperate to know when and how to wear them.

After initial government advice that face masks did little to combat the spread of coronavirus, the UK eventually followed the lead of other countries and made them mandatory in several spaces.

In August, the government performed a U-turn to announce that masks should be worn by secondary school pupils and staff.

Watch: Prime minister defends schools face masks U-turn

4 Zoom

Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 12/1/20 Zoom shares plunge 15% in trading today in spite of strong quarterly earnings. Positive vaccine results may have added to the decline in share price as more people hope for a return to normalcy. STAR MAX File PHoto: 11/29/20 A Zoom Video logo is seen on an iphone SE 2020.
Video conferencing firm Zoom was one of the companies to prosper during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

With everyone stuck at home, Britons needed new ways to communicate with their loved ones and their work colleagues.

Video calling firm Zoom, which Yahoo Finance named as its Company of the Year, stepped into the breach, allowing people to keep in touch with the outside world from their own homes.

Read more: Zoom to lift 40-minute limit for set periods during Christmas and New Year

Its growth in popularity had a downside, however, as almost three-quarters of Britons have reported suffering from “Zoom anxiety” in the past year.

5 Travel rules

Passengers wearing face masks as they arrive at Heathrow Airport after a flight from Dubrovnik, Croatia, landed. The UK government announced that from 4am on Saturday, travellers to the UK from Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago will have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Britons scrambled to follow ever-changing travel rules in 2020. (PA)

When the coronavirus pandemic first took hold, there was a scramble among Britons on holiday to return home, as the nation tried to follow the government’s quickly changing travel advice.

In June, the government introduced a 14-day quarantine rule for people arriving in the UK, although a new scheme to cut this period began in December.

6 Vaccine

Healthcare professional in protective gloves & workwear holding & organising a tray of COVID-19 vaccine vials. The professional is carrying out researches on COVID-19 vaccine in laboratory.
Scientists raced throughout 2020 to develop COVID-19 vaccines. (Getty)

There was much more positive news surrounding coronavirus towards the end of the year, when a number of pharmaceutical companies announced their COVID-19 vaccines were effective against the disease.

In December, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, originally from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 jab outside a clinical trial, when she was administered it at University Hospital in Coventry, as the UK began its vaccine rollout.

Watch: Hospital staff applaud first recipient of COVID vaccine

7 Furlough scheme

Green COVID-19 shop sign in show window
The coronavirus pandemic forced businesses across the UK to close. (PA)

The government’s furlough scheme figured highly in Yahoo Search data as millions of British workers tried to find out if they were eligible for compensation for lost income during the pandemic.

Announced on 20 March by chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme gave grants to employers to provide workers with 80% of their pay, up to a monthly total of £2,500.

The scheme was extended until the end of March 2021 and then until the end of April.

8 Self-isolation

Britons have been forced to deal with long periods of self-isolation this year. (Getty)
Britons have been forced to deal with long periods of self-isolation this year. (Getty)

Britons had to keep pace with the constantly evolving rules over self-isolation during the pandemic, and police were given powers to check on those who should have been doing so.

The quarantine period for those who had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 was reduced from 14 days to 10 days in December.

A study published in September had revealed that only 11% of people had been self-isolating for the full 14 days after being instructed to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

9 Wuhan outbreak

Workers in protective suits collect swabs from senior high school students for nucleic acid tests at Hubei Wuchang Experimental High School before the students are set to return to campus on May 6, in Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in China's Hubei province April 30, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS   ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
Health workers collect swabs from students at a school in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, in May. (Reuters)

Wuhan featured highly in Yahoo Search data for British web users earlier in the year, as scientists believe the city in China’s Hubei province was ground zero for coronavirus.

It is believed the virus first spread from animals to humans at a so-called “wet market” in the city, but some researchers think it may have merely been amplified there.

Read more: Chinese city of Wuhan one year on from coronavirus outbreak

In June, almost 10 million people in Wuhan were tested for COVID-19 in the space of 19 days, with only 300 positive cases. Thousands of people crammed into a huge pool party in the city in the summer.

In August, a group of World Health Organization scientists said coronavirus did come from bats, but the WHO is sending a new team to Wuhan in January to investigate the origins of COVID-19.

10 Hand sanitiser

Close-up of woman using antibacterial hand gel at home.
Hand sanitiser became a must-have item for Britons this year. (Getty)

Hand sanitiser became an essential piece of kit for people after the emergence of coronavirus, with thousands of Britons panic buying it in bulk earlier in the year, forcing supermarkets to introduce rationing.

The product became big business, and one couple who set up a hand sanitiser firm when coronavirus hit were reportedly making millions of pounds, while donating large quantities to NHS charities.

Watch: Some hand sanitisers ‘don’t have enough alcohol to kill COVID’