A campaign was launched in December to urge North East people not to let their guard down in the fight against Covid-19.
Housed online at BeatCovidNE.co.uk, the key message is one of thanks to the people of the North East - and of urgency to keep going with our efforts to follow the rules.
Now, as part of the campaign, we are featuring the third part of the 'Covid Diaries' in which six people from different parts of the region and different walks of life share their experiences. You can read part one here and part two here.
Part three can be read here.
They are candidly sharing their experiences of Tier 3, lockdown Christmas and Covid compliance, the difficulties and challenges and also their firm belief that we must continue to follow the rules to beat Covid-19 as a region.
““There’s a strong feeling of resilience and positivity at work. We’re feeling optimistic because we know if everyone sticks to the rules for a little while longer, we’ll reach the end of this long, dark tunnel.”.”
55-year-old Dave Langley is a clinical care manager for North East Ambulance Service, based at Pallion. In this role, he is a frontline manager for emergency ambulance crews, a job he’s done for 34-years. He lives in South Shields, with his partner, Denise, who is a nurse on a Covid-19 ward.
Work is extremely busy. To alleviate pressure on our hospitals as much as we can, paramedics, with their life saving skills, treat as many people as possible at home as safely as we can.
We are the first line of protection for hospitals and, while we’re hectic, we know that with more and more people getting vaccinated daily, we’ll come out of this.
Some of my team is helping to administer the vaccination at the Centre For Life in Newcastle and they’ve said how well organised it is. The process is slick, everyone feels safe and supported with the information they need to know about the vaccine.
I’ve had the first vaccine dose and my next one is in March. I understand why the government has increased the period between getting the first and second dose. By doing this, it means many more people will have a good level of protection rather than none at all.
Being under some form of lockdown has become a way of life. Right now, the message is to ‘stay at home’. When not working, I’m at home, limiting my social contact as much as possible. My partner Denise and I only visit the supermarket once a week. I’m aware this is easier to do than if we were feeding several growing children but the more often we mix in places like supermarkets and essential shops, the greater the risk of passing on or contracting the virus.
We are, in effect, acting like we have Covid. As soon as I leave the house, whether it’s to go to work or the local shop, I put on my mask. It’s become second nature to sanitise my hands before I leave the house, and then in the car, and also use the sanitiser provided by my workplace or the shop I’m entering. It’s such a normal part of daily life now.
If Denise and I could socialise with friends every weekend, we would. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time now - we greatly miss it - but we know there’s a good reason for it. If we want to do these things in the future, we must consistently follow the rules.
Stay local to exercise, don’t travel via car or train to reach a place to exercise. Start at your front door and finish at your front door. If you see someone you know when shopping or exercising, no matter how unnatural it feels, don’t stop and have a chat - call them when you get home. Act like you have the virus.
All we need to do now is get to the other side of this. There’s a strong feeling of resilience and positivity at work. We’re feeling optimistic because we know if everyone sticks to the rules for a little while longer, we’ll reach the end of this long, dark tunnel. The vaccine has been found - more than one - it’s only a matter of time now.
Until then though, maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask wherever you go - whether that’s queuing to get into a supermarket or to pick up a takeaway from your favourite restaurant - and sanitising your hands properly is the only way that’s going to protect you and your loved ones and get us all out of this sooner rather than later.
If people don’t follow the rules, we are putting even more pressure on an already strained NHS. The NHS saves lives and to ensure that continues people need to stick to the rules. It’s that simple.
“Although I’m fit and healthy, having Covid over Christmas completely wiped me out. I was so lucky not to need hospital treatment, but I was taken aback by how much the exhaustion caused by the virus would affect me."
Jas Singh is 42 and works as a bus driver for Go North East. He loves cycling around Seaham, where he lives with his wife Kamal and six year-old son Mann.
Although I’m fit and healthy, having Covid over Christmas completely wiped me out. I was so lucky not to need hospital treatment, but I was taken aback by how much the exhaustion caused by the virus would affect me.
Thankfully, I was well enough to return to work on Monday last week and it has been nice to get back into a bit of a routine. I have been working long shifts, from 9.30am until 8pm, which usually doesn’t affect me, but I was incredibly tired the first couple of days back. I’m pleased to say that the tiredness has passed now and I’m feeling more myself again. However, it has taken a good few weeks for my body to recover – which is difficult when you are used to being so active and fit.
The main thing I think I have learnt after having the virus and having to isolate is how important it is to stay positive and look after your mental health. Now I’m feeling more myself, I’m enjoying being able to exercise again. The cold, dark nights and icy conditions have meant that I’ve not been able to go out on my bike as I usually would, so I’ve been going on my treadmill instead. The endorphins from exercise just give you a real boost and I would encourage everyone to find a way of getting a little bit of activity into their day to help them stay strong and resilient.
I know it is hard and everyone is tired of the restrictions, especially during the winter. I think the toughest thing for us in recent weeks has been going back to home-schooling our six-year-old son, Mann. Although Mann does now have a few days in school while I work, which I’m incredibly grateful for – we do home-school on the other days. I firmly believe that you should only use a school place if you absolutely must, to help prevent any unnecessary spread of the virus at school.
Adapting to home-schooling online has been quite a learning curve for us parents! I think kids are resilient and Mann is doing brilliantly with the change. Although it was tricky at the start, we can navigate things online a lot better now and have found a bit of routine. The important thing for all parents to remember is that we are all doing what we can. These are not normal times and we are all human – it’s absolutely okay to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of home-schooling, especially for those also working from home. Just remember that your best is always enough.
I was a bit shocked last week when I heard that over 100,000 deaths have now been reported. It just got me thinking about the fact that this is more than a number – its 100,000 mams, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and friends. There are so many devastated families out there. It struck me that if I stay home, remain local, wear a mask and sanitise my hands and that prevents even just one death of a loved one, then all of this has to be worth it. That thought has kept me going over the last week or so.
I’ve always been vigilant about following the rules and I think it has become second nature. Popping on a mask when I go to a local shop or into work, as well as sanitising my hands and social distancing, just feels natural now. By doing this, we are all in effect acting like we have Covid. By working together in this way we can all beat this by bringing the daily number of cases and deaths down.
With the vaccine roll-out there is hope on the horizon. All we need to do in the meantime is work together to get to the other side of this. By acting like we have Covid and following the rules, I know there will be light at the end of the tunnel for us all.
“I know homeschooling is a challenge for many parents (including me!) Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing a great job.”
Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.
The first week of the new lockdown has felt like I’ve stepped back in time, to be honest. The main difference is we know what to do and what we can expect. Having that insight is great as it means we’ve been able to plan, but on the other hand, knowing the difficulties we’re likely to face is daunting.
At school, I’ve been carrying out staff training to roll out the Innova lateral flow test. All staff in the school are now being tested every week. It’s been a huge challenge but we now have a smooth process in place which I hope will reassure both teachers and school staff. We hope initial testing will help to reduce the spread of the virus and build pupils, staff and parents confidence.
On a personal level, the biggest challenge as a family with this lockdown is the weather. In the spring, the kids played in the garden and we went out for regular walks. To combat this we’re trying to make the most of staying in by planning fun pizza, game or movie nights. The kids love it.
I know homeschooling is a challenge for many parents (including me!) and I wanted to share my advice as a teacher. First of all, if you don’t have access to broadband or a device, please contact your school. We’re here to support you and offer advice. Please don’t let access be a barrier as there’s always help available.
Create a routine that reflects the school day starting with a good breakfast, breaks in between classes and most importantly, at the end of the day, put away the books. A good routine helps ensure we’re eating well, drinking enough water, taking breaks and creates a clear distinction between school and hometime. It can also help break down what can feel like a daunting week of work into manageable chunks.
The key is to concentrate on what you can achieve, congratulate yourself on what you have been able to do and anything leftover can be picked up the next day. Yes, the work is important but not over you and your child’s wellbeing. We’re not expecting miracles from parents. Teachers are professionally trained and still, we’re figuring out how best to adapt to new ways of teaching. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You are doing a great job.
I know right now, after such a challenging year, how tempting it is to allow our frustrations to get on top of us. We’re all fed-up of the situation which we thought would be better in 2021 but for me, it’s all about trying to pull out the positives. No matter how small. Whether it’s trying to cook something new, spending more quality family time together or finding a new walk in your local area. By staying at home we’re all helping to save lives.
When we can see friends and family again I can’t wait to go out for a meal to catch up with everyone and celebrate. To go out on a big family weekend adventure and never again take for granted the freedom to go out and explore. Our very first trip will be to visit family in Northern Ireland on the farm. I can’t wait to see my mum and dad again and for the kids to get to hug their grandparents. Seeing them through a screen is getting tougher and being able to be together face-to-face again is going to be a special day.
"I know from talking to the communities I work with how tough some people are finding this third lockdown. People feel sad, upset and anxious because they can’t see their loved ones. While there’s a lot we can’t control, we can protect each other.”
Amii Stewart is a 29-year-old Police Officer with Northumbria Police covering North Shields in North Tyneside. She works with communities as a Neighbourhood PC to help keep them safe and Covid transmissions down - which is currently a big part of her job. Amii is bubbled with her grandad, Derek, in his late 70s, who she’s seen most days since the beginning of the pandemic. Derek lives just a 10-minute drive away from her house and each week she gets his shopping and makes sure he’s keeping well following her granny’s passing in September.
I’d like to start my diary this week by thanking everyone for staying home where possible. I know from talking to the communities I work with how tough some people are finding this third lockdown. People feel sad, upset and anxious because they can’t see their loved ones. There’s also worry about just how long it’s going to last, especially now there’s a new strain. While there’s a lot we can’t control, we can protect each other. By acting like we might have the virus, whether that means shopping once a week or staying within your local area, we can help the NHS and save lives.
My working life remains fairly constant, but I have noticed this lockdown a few changes which I think reflect the seriousness of the situation. At work, for instance, to help prevent the spread of the virus we’re further limiting the number of people in each room. This has meant my team is now split in two and sitting in different offices. There are also small things we’re doing like making sure we’re preparing our own drinks and eating separately on our breaks. We’re all staying vigilant and doing what we can to protect our colleagues.
Earlier this year, Lynda Moyo gained inspiration to establish Lemon-Aid, a newsletter community composed of like-minded parents and carers all dealing with the lemons that life gave us whilst learning to adapt to the ‘new normal’.
Now, the daily newsletters that have put a smile on the faces of so many for the past eight months have been compiled into one handy E-book. For each e-book sold, 99p will be donated to the Save the Children Fund.
The £1.99 book recounts the relatable, sometimes hilarious and albeit down right strange situations of being a parent in lockdown.
The valuable lockdown tips, tricks and hacks of the original newsletters now grace the pages of the book alongside comical and witty observations thrown in for good measure.
You can also expect notes on subjects such as the joy of lockdown birthdays and the complexity of successfully establishing home school whilst working a 40 hour week and trying to reclaim your positivity.
The ongoing success of the original Lemon-Aid newsletters is sure to make this book a staple of the family bookcase as we continue to navigate an extremely testing year.
Tiers and Tantrums: Parenting in a Pandemic is now available to buy on Amazon and iTunes.
Personally another change this past week is that my church has decided to close during lockdown. I’m going to miss it as whenever I’ve had a hard day or stressful week I always feel calmer when I leave the church. While there are no services I’m going to take the time to find new walks in our local area and we’ve got the beach nearby which despite the cold weather is always a great way to clear our minds.
But all of the congregation understand that it’s for the best and we’re like one big family. Several of the older members of the congregation have now received the vaccine and feel more positive about the future.
For me and my family, this third lockdown is tough, perhaps tougher than the last two, because we still can’t see each other. Just recently my uncle passed away and his funeral was in a different area so we were unable to attend due to Covid restrictions. I have quite a big family and if it wasn’t for lockdown we would have all driven down to join the rest of the family and his friends in paying our respects. Life goes on, but you sometimes feel like you are missing important life moments because of Covid and that is sad.
That said, instead of dwelling on what we can’t do right now, we’re planning what we’d like to do in the future. For me, it’s to hug everyone. It’ll be my colleagues first because, despite the challenges of lockdown, they’ve done their best to keep everyone smiling and safe.
I’m also excited to be able to travel again. To jump in the car and go somewhere else other than work or the supermarket. London would be my first go to - I used to live there and I’ve got friends still living there who I’m looking forward to seeing again. But for now, we can dream and plan, and know that with the vaccine, eventually there will be a way out.
“I feel positive and hopeful for the future. Every person who sticks to the rules and every person who receives the vaccine gets us one step closer to normality.”
Brenda Naisby is a 79-year-old grandma who lives in Washington, Sunderland who has formed a support bubble with her daughter and grandchildren who live near her.
Since the first lockdown, I’ve made an effort to consistently stick to the rules. I only mix with my support bubble and when lockdown three came into force, I reduced essential supermarket trips from twice a week to just once a week. I walk to the supermarket and back home again, putting on my mask as soon as I step foot outside my home and I don’t remove it until I am safely back indoors. I also go early when it’s quiet.
I think at a time like this, where Covid cases are higher than ever and hospitals are stretched, it’s wise to act like you’ve already got the virus. The isolation is tough mentally. I love seeing my friends and we used to do everything together and although I get to spend a couple of evenings at my daughter’s where I have my tea and enjoy some company, I miss going out and about and doing different things with different people.
That’s why it’s important to occupy your mind or body with something else - set yourself a challenge or take up a new hobby. I have with quilting. I was so pleased with my first quilting attempt - I made myself a gorgeous quilted iPad cover. I am now moving onto making a quilted shopping bag. It requires a great deal of concentration but it’s great to learn this new skill, something I would never have done before Covid.
Exercise wise, I miss my line dancing classes with the girls so a few times a week I pop a bit of Willie Nelson (country music star) on Spotify and line dance. It helps to keep my spirits up and focus on the future when we are free of lockdowns.
I know things seem dire but it’s times like these that remind us of what we are grateful for and the simple freedoms that we take for granted. It’s important to focus on this and realise that the vaccine is here now and we’re heading towards the final hurdle.
However, before the vaccine can do its job in protecting people, that responsibility lies with us. We must continue to follow the rules. Wash our hands wherever we go, wear our masks at all times and ensure we minimise social contact as much as possible.
The end is nearly in sight but for us to reach it, sticking to the rules and breaking the social contact chain that helps Covid to thrive is more important than ever. Because I’m desperate, like everyone else, for life to return to normal, I’m more determined than ever to hang on in there, stick to the rules and get us out of this a lot quicker.
I can’t wait to see that day where we can all wake up in the morning and do whatever we feel like doing - whether that’s browsing the shops, going to the gym or for a swim or going out for some drinks with a group of friends. If we genuinely want these things in our life again, then we must follow the rules.
The message is simple. Stay at home. Only go out if you need to. Stay local. In my younger years, I used to be a keen rambler and the last bit of the walk was always the hardest. It’s a bit like where we’re at with the pandemic now. We’re nearly there, we’re at the toughest point, we just have to keep going.
““I plan to get the vaccine but I’m not relying on that to keep me safe. I know the only way I can stay healthy, especially with my asthma, is to stay home where possible, wash my hands, wear my mask and keep a safe distance from other people .”
Carol Duncan works in the pharmacy at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.
Last week, my 90-year-old father-in-law Jack, who we were in a bubble with, sadly passed away. While he lived a long and full life, we will miss him very much. Organising a funeral during lockdown has been difficult. The process is essentially the same but only 30 people are allowed to attend the church service. Only six people can attend the wake that follows.
Jack had so many friends and lived life to the full, even in his final days. It’s a great shame to not have everyone he knew and all those so fond of him join us to celebrate his life, but I understand why. We must protect people’s lives and the only guaranteed way to do this right now is if we limit social contact.
Given the job I do, I’m still going to work as usual, but things are far from usual. The hospital is very busy not just with treating Covid patients but with the normal winter pressures too. During the first lockdown, many non-urgent NHS services were paused but things are different this time around. We’re still operating as normal but handling the pandemic too.
It’s tough - hospital staff are increasingly stretched - but the main thing is we’re coping. We want to treat as many people as possible, whenever they need it, which is why the rules in place are so important in helping the NHS to keep doing this. Right now, everyone needs to do their bit by staying at home as much as possible, only making essential trips and minimising social contact.
Everyone at work is so relieved about the vaccine but are well aware that we aren’t out of the woods yet. Lots of hospital workers are getting vaccinated so it’s good to know the ball is rolling on that front. Before the vaccine can protect people, we must stick to the rules. By doing this, we are saving lives.
I plan to get the vaccine but I’m not relying on that to keep me safe. I know the only way I can stay safe, especially with my asthma, is to keep doing what I am doing which is sanitising my hands regularly, wearing my mask and remaining two metres apart from people as much as possible. The rules are our only protection from Covid right now.
When I leave the house now, I put my mask on as soon as I’m in the car and it stays on until I am home again, whether that’s after a supermarket trip or a shift at work. We mostly do online shopping but every few days we pop to the nearest shop to buy bread and milk. Other than that, we are staying at home. It’s fair to say that we see our Amazon delivery driver quite regularly as I try to order online whenever possible.
I also ensure I only go from A to B and travelling is kept to only essential trips like going to work. As soon as this is all over, the first thing I’ll do is go out for a slap-up meal, a few drinks and visit the cinema too. I miss going to the cinema so much, but I know that day will come again. We just have to stay at home, ensure social contact is minimised and wear our masks and wash our hands wherever we go. If we do that, we will get through this.