Covid-19 victims remembered as Harrogate marks anniversary of first national lockdown
The victims of Covid-19 are being remembered across Harrogate today as the district marks the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
Health officials, volunteers and local leaders have offered their condolences to those who have lost loved ones during the pandemic as they also praised the "tremendous spirit" shown by communities since Prime Minister Boris Johnson first ordered the nation to stay at home 12 months ago.
With the Harrogate district's death toll this month passing the 200 mark, there are messages of sympathy and "enormous" loss but also cautious hope as the vaccination rollout continues to offer a route back to normality.
Dr Matt Shepherd, chief operating officer for Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, told a meeting of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum today: "It has been a very long and unusual year - and it is absolutely right to reflect on the tragic loss of life that we have seen.
"Thinking back to this time last year, we were all very nervous about what those first few months would hold for us. There was lots of work and frenzied preparation in early March that enabled us to cope with the first wave relatively well.
"We have just come out of a much more difficult wave and I am really pleased to say that is now coming to an end.
"I want to say a huge thank you to the general public for following lockdown measures. Without that wider support of the public, we would have been faced with a much more difficult task."
Helen Flynn, executive director of community support organisation Nidderdale Plus, also said while the Covid crisis has kept people apart, it has brought out the best of communities with hundreds of volunteers stepping forward to help others in need.
She said: "You have to look for positives from this crisis and the way that people have risen to the challenge has been absolutely amazing.
"We are confident that we will be able to accelerate the number of volunteers working with us because when Covid is finally at an end the impact will still be felt for quite a considerable time."
With the lockdowns have come tough restrictions on socialising and devastating business closures that will leave the Harrogate district we know looking very different when we return for good.
But despite this, the largest vaccination programme ever done under the NHS has continued to roll-out and more than 70,000 people in the district have now had a Covid jab.
And Richard Flinton, chair of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience forum, which includes emergency services, council and health officials leading the response to the pandemic, said it was for this reason that the public can now "look forward to a summer of increased freedoms and hope".
He said: "The most important thing for us to do is to reflect on the enormous loss of life across the country - our communities have suffered as have individuals and today is a time to reflect on that.
"But we can also look forward as we are gaining a stronger position with every vaccination that takes place.
"The national lockdown has brought us to a situation of more control and providing that we can embrace lifting restrictions with caution and personal responsibility, we can look forward to a summer of increased freedoms and hope."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter