"It's like being in a tsunami, we've been swept up in a big wave of grief and then dumped on a beach and just left", said Tony Fitzgerald.

His wife 'bubbly, lovely' wife Ann passed away on April 7 after spending ten days in hospital with coronavirus.

He misses Ann, from Salford, 'every second of every day', but feels there has been a lack of support for grieving families.

The 65-year-old former landlord is one of the thousands of Mancunians mourning a victim of this cruel disease.

Ann Fitzgerald died with coronavirus in April

Tony spoke to the Manchester Evening News outside Manchester Cathedral, where fellow grieving families and dignitaries gathered for a socially distanced memorial event on Thursday.

An online Book of Remembrance was launched during the GM Remembers ceremony, which was streamed live on Facebook.

Mourners like Tony can upload photos and tributes to the website, to honour the memory of their loved ones.

The event was led by The Very Rev'd Rogers Govender Dean of Manchester, and the region's mayor Andy Burnham.

A candle is lit during the service

Mr Burnham told the congregation that, as the death toll in the region rises to almost 3,000, it's vital to remember the human beings behind the statistics.

"They were people who lived here, loved here, laughed and cried here", he said.

The ceremony had a very different feel to a normal memorial event.

People in masks sat two metres away from each other during the prayers and readings.

Covid-19 remembrance service at Manchester Cathedral

There was no choir, just recorded hymns played through the speakers. 

It was a reminder that we are still living through the pandemic, the threat of the virus is still very real.

But it was one of the first memorial events that people have been able to attend in person, as the lockdown begins to ease in Greater Manchester.

"We hope people will find some comfort, some closure perhaps, considering many people have not been able to be with their loved ones in their dying moments, not being able to say goodbye. Spiritually, emotionally, it has been a real challenge for people," Rev'd Govender said.

For Tony Fitzgerald, who got in contact with Mr Burnham via his radio show on BBC Manchester, the day was of huge significance.

Lockdown was a tough, isolating experience for people grieving like Tony. He couldn't give his wife of 41 years a proper send off.

Tony Fitzgerald lost his wife 'bubbly, lovely' wife Ann

"At least today I can take comfort that (Ann) is now on the website and people can log on and pay their respects to her, as they should have been able to do in normal circumstances. So today it gives me a bit of comfort. Ann didn't deserve to go in the way that she went, she deserved better than that.

"The support for the Covid families, for me, has just not been there. It has taken me six weeks to get bereavement counselling. I don't want Ann forgotten in the way she was taken. She died all alone. I went and sat with her when she passed away in a small, white, barren room" he said.

The funeral was a 'low key affair', with ten people. They weren't allowed any flowers, or a photogragh.

"It's just the way you expect to say goodbye to someone. You would have the numbers you wanted to attend and then you would celebrate their life in the way you wanted to do," he said.

Wednesday's memorial event was also attended by NHS staff who have worked on the frontline during the pandemic.

Consultant Jay Naisbitt has been caring for patients on the intensive care ward at Salford Royal Hospital

Dr Jay Naisbitt has been caring for patients on the intensive care ward at Salford Royal Hospital during the crisis.

"It's difficult to express the emotions of what we have been through over the last few months. What everyone has been through", he said.

"Even in normal times in intensive care unfortunately a number of patients will die despite our best efforts.

"What we have been through is a high number of people dying despite our best efforts in a short space of time. The normal processes, the normal empathy you have to people that you can express face to face has been diminished. It's very difficult to express emotion through Facetime or a telephone conversation.

"We have been able to facilitate families coming in for patients at the end of life, but it's been a difficult time for families who haven't been able to grieve properly in the conventional way", he said.

For frontline staff like Dr Naisbitt, the service and Covid-19 Online Book of Remembrance was a chance to take time out and reflect after a difficult few months.

"It was time for reflection and pause to understand what the city has been through. To help bring some closure to families and colleagues across the NHS", he said.