The people of Derbyshire will never forget this past year
None of us will ever forget this last year.
On the evening of March 23, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the first coronavirus lockdown, telling the British people in a televised address: “I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives.”
Twelve months on and we remain in the third shutdown as the pandemic continues – but it is hoped vaccines will soon help us to finally move on from this horrendous time in our history.
In Derbyshire county and Derby city, a total of 67,823 people have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began, according to Government figures on Tuesday morning.
The total number of fatalities registered across Derbyshire where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate stands at 2,853.
Many thousands of families, friends and people in our communities will never fully recover from the emotional trauma of this heartbreaking year.
Our condolences, of course, remain with every single person who has lost a loved one during the pandemic.
For health and social care workers, it has been an utterly exhausting time – and they all continue to have our full support.
Matthew Tacey, a lead nurse based in Chesterfield, said: “Before I start to report on how the NHS has been over the last 12 months, we must pay respects and remember the more than 126,000 people across the UK who have been stolen from us by this cruel virus.
“As we mark a year since lockdown began, I am standing with you in grieving and remembering those who are no longer with us.
“I am a nurse in the NHS and have never been prouder to put my lanyard on in the morning and leave my house, despite the gut-wrenching fear I have had.
“The whole NHS has pulled together to begin to win this war against Covid-19.
“We thank every single one of you who has followed the Government’s guidance to ensure your NHS has survived one on the worst pandemics it has ever faced and, hopefully, will ever face.
“From your NHS, once again, thank you.
“Let’s look forward to creating many cherished and needed memories with loved ones and friends.”
On Tuesday, Derbyshire County Council unveiled plans to create a memorial woodland at Grassmoor Country Park to remember and honour those who have died with coronavirus.
Councillor Barry Lewis, council leader, said: “Derbyshire, and the whole world, has experienced an incredibly hard 12 months, the like of which none of us could have predicted and which we hope to never see again.
“We have lost over 2,000 people in Derbyshire, people who were family, friends and colleagues and will be missed for many decades to come.
“We want to create a place where people can come to remember, to find some peace and healing in a natural and sustainable environment and to know that their loved one has not been forgotten.”
‘The future is looking bright’
Hundreds of local businesses have been closed for much of the last year.
Many firms will sadly never reopen again.
Many will be opening their doors when allowed – and they need everyone’s support.
Pub landlord Lewis Brown, who runs The Hop Flower at Inkersall, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for everybody worldwide.
“Our business has been significantly affected but we are proud to have done our part as an industry to help stop the spread.
“The future is looking bright and we are excited to get open and see our wonderful customers once more.”
Martin Wallis-Keyworth, owner of Less Than Zero Barbers in Chesterfield, also feels positive.
“I’ve tried to look after the people who work with me and in return we now have a very well-established team which we are looking to expand,” he said.
He added he had used Government grants wisely and been able to pay rent in advance – helping his company to survive.
Scott Knowles, chief executive of the East Midlands chamber of commerce, said: “After what has undoubtedly been a very difficult 12 months for businesses and communities, we look forward to the coming year with a renewed vigour.
“The road map announced by the Prime Minister a month ago has given us a light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel, and businesses are now approaching the next 12 months with great optimism.”
The number of people out of work in the East Midlands is higher than the UK average, according to Office for National Statistics data released last month.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the number of people claiming Universal Credit in the region hit 405,249 on January 14, up 6,202 on a month earlier.
‘I am wrung out after a year of lockdown’
As individuals, our daily lives have been turned upside down.
Each and every one of us has faced a myriad of personal challenges and we have all experienced so many different feelings – fear, sorrow, loneliness, gratitude for our key workers, optimism at the vaccine roll-out.
Anna Melton, a parent who has homeschooled while running her Chesterfield business In The Works PR, summed up the feelings of most people: “I am wrung out after a year of lockdown.”
We have seen the very best in Derbyshire this past year.
Thousands of you have helped others in countless ways.
Thousands of you have made sacrifices.
Thousands of you have stayed at home, protected the NHS and saved lives.
Thousands of you are now getting vaccinated, benefiting yourself and others.
Thousands of you are now looking forward to brighter days.
But when the brighter days come – and they will come – no, none of us will ever forget this last year.