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Lockdown life in Preston and Lancashire 12 months in – from tiers to Good Samaritans

Posted on - 28th March, 2021 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fylde News, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, South Ribble News, Wyre News
Woman wearing mask Pic: Engin Akyurt from Pixabay
Pic: Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

It’s been a year since the coronavirus lockdown was first imposed in the UK, and so many things have happened since.

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From a second wave, to a vaccine, March 2020 until now has been a roller-coaster.

There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, and so many positive things have happened amongst the bad.

March 2020

In the month where people were stockpiling toilet paper, pasta, cleaning items and more, the adrenaline was high and the mood uncertain.

Colleges closed over fears, Prestfest was postponed due to concerns surrounding the virus and Preston cinemas closed too.

We did see Prestonians coming together though, shining a light on the best of humanity from the start of the pandemic.

Banana King were determined to help the homeless and elderly, a coronavirus group gained 7,000 members in just two days and some family run businesses were determined to help those struggling as a result of the pandemic.

In March 2020, businessman Mr Yousuf Bhailok asked Prestonians to pull together in this time of need to raise £1million for Preston NHS staff.

UCLan introduced all online teaching as a response to the pandemic, and the police received an influx of calls surrounding lockdown measures, as initially, people did not understand what they were meant to do.

One of Preston's rainbow creation Pic: Cat Morewin/Facebook
One of Preston’s rainbow creation Pic: Cat Morewin/Facebook

The rainbow became the sign of hope throughout the pandemic, and the Harris held their first virtual exhibition based on the symbol.

A young girl, Holly Middleton-Kelly, even made rainbows for NHS staff to give them hope whilst they were working hard on the frontline.

April 2020

The dinosaur crossed Tulketh Road and disappeared down Egerton Road

As if things couldn’t get any more strange, a dinosaur was spotted taking its daily exercise.

Chase from Paw Patrol was also spotted out and about in Ashton.

Age Concern began offering support to elderly people who needed it and issues surrounding PPE began to become apparent.

People were terrified when they were told about a temporary morgue in Warton, but Prestonians remained hopeful and cheered for our NHS frontline with the clap for carers.

One of the bridges in Masonwood Pic: Blog Preston
One of the bridges in Masonwood Pic: Blog Preston

When things got tough, we just had to remember better times were ahead. A Fulwood bridge was decorated with amazing messages of hope for the community which helped uplift spirits and reminded people that life can be beautiful.

The Police even did their bit for the community and delivered Easter eggs to Preston children who were stuck inside.

People were cooking meals for the most vulnerable and donating food parcels and a mental health helpline opened 24/7 to help those who were struggling mentally with the impact of coronavirus.

A Preston family even bottled up hand sanitiser and gave it away for free – something that many people were struggling to get hold of at this stage of the pandemic as many online retailers hiked their prices in response to the crisis.

May 2020

Elderly people were becoming lonely and Preston wanted to combat this. Pic: Pixabay

In May, Prestonians were encouraged to send cards to a Preston care home in order to combat the loneliness many residents were feeling after a couple of months of no visitors.

Afternoon teas were also delivered to elderly people which were thoroughly enjoyed.

Preston homeless shelter residents were given new homes during the pandemic after deciding to temporarily close the hostel for the welfare of residents in line with social distancing guidelines.

The banner unveiled on the Harris Pic: Blog Preston
The banner unveiled on the Harris Pic: Blog Preston

A colourful banner was unveiled on the Harris balcony to thank key workers, the NHS and volunteers and a kind-hearted family created a remembrance wood for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic.

In May, trials to find ways to treat Covid-19 at Royal Preston Hospital saw more than 500 patients come forward to take part.

Meanwhile, UCLan students were striking against their private landlords, campaigning against being charged a third rent instalment, despite not occupying their accommodation for any of the third term due to lockdown.

June 2020

Grateful recipients of the Age Concern Central Lancashire's movie night in package
Grateful recipients of the Age Concern Central Lancashire’s movie night in package

Preston-based charity Age Concern Central Lancashire recreated a ‘movie night in’ experience for older people who were still isolating, delivering pizza, popcorn and donated DVDs.

Tens of thousands of face masks were given out in Preston city centre free of charge as non-essential shops prepared to reopen.

A 64-year-old who spent 50 days battling coronavirus in Royal Preston Hospital’s critical care unit was serenaded as he left hospital.

Dr Thomas Owen performed American Pie for music-loving Roger Kenyon as he left the hospital and was greeted by his family.

The video is simply heartwarming and gave us all hope:

July 2020

Two of the face masks made by Michelle.
Two of the face masks made by Michelle. Pic: Michelle Lomas

A woman from Ashton-on-Ribble made masks with clear Perspex windows to help families in the deaf community.

As hospitality began to reopen in July 2020, the police urged people to behave responsibly when out and about, reminding them of the rules.

Charities were beginning to struggle as they had not been able to fundraise in their usual ways, so primary school pupils in Penwortham raised over £1,300 for the British Heart Foundation and St Catherine’s Hospice by completing a sponsored silence.

UCLan Chamber Choir pictured with Musician in Residence and Choir Director Mark Goggins at the Summer 2019 graduation ceremony
UCLan Chamber Choir pictured with Musician in Residence and Choir Director Mark Goggins at the Summer 2019 graduation ceremony

Former music theatre graduates from the UCLan award-winning Chamber Choir joined together to record a special version of a graduation anthem in an effort to raise money for the NHS.

An Ashton man even dressed up in his partner’s dress to deliver homemade meals to Preston’s frontline workers.

Chris wore his partner's dress to make food deliveries for Preston Here for Humanity
Chris wore his partner’s dress to make food deliveries for Preston Here for Humanity

Unfortunately though, Preston’s coronavirus cases began to rise, and Preston was described as ‘one to watch.’

August 2020

The entrance to the Vernon Street coronavirus testing centre Pic: Blog Preston

The hopefulness people seemed to feel was short-lived, as Preston was threatened with a local lockdown as soon as August began.

With Eat Out to Help Out a firm favourite of many residents, there was a bitter taste left in everyone’s mouths as a lockdown was confirmed to start Friday 7 August in Preston.

Longridge and South Ribble were not included in the lockdown, which caused frustration and confusion amongst many.

The Rosemere Coffee Shop volunteers
The Rosemere Coffee Shop

There was some good news in August, however, as Rosemere Cancer Centre’s coffee shop announced they had made a profit despite the pandemic.

A personal trainer from Preston was also helping ‘at risk’ people get back into exercising safely, as we all knew by now what an amazing impact fitness can have on our mental and physical health.

Knitting Prestonians were encouraged to take part in a knitting campaign to tackle loneliness and there was good news as coronavirus rates began to decline.

The NHS Spitfire Pic: marcart from Pixabay
The Spitfire is raising money for NHS Charities Together Pic: marcart from Pixabay

To round off the month, the NHS spitfire took to the skies and flew over the Royal Preston Hospital.

September 2020

A woman having a coronavirus test
One of the first people to be tested in Deepdale testing centre. Pic: Deepdale Community Association / Twitter

Coronavirus restrictions were set to ease, but then Prestonians were told the rate of coronavirus was the highest since lockdown – people didn’t know where they stood.

Frustratingly, some Prestonians were still arranging big events, but police managed to stop them and issue a £10,000 fine to the organiser.

Many schools were closing due to positive cases in bubbles and wherever you looked, coronavirus seemed to completely dominate the news – from the failing test and trace system to the City of Preston 10K being cancelled.

October 2020

Natalie English with her sons
Natalie with her children

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, as a Penwortham mum created a positive newspaper for kids, by kids, spreading a bit of joy to children growing up in a strange and uncertain world.

Much-loved Lime Bar closed temporarily due to coronavirus cases, and Preston’s coronavirus infection rate was the second highest in Lancashire.

Our MP spoke out about leaving residents on a ‘cliff edge’ and Preston was put into tier 3 shortly after – much to the despair of locals.

Entrance to Royal Preston Hospital Pic: Blog Preston
Entrance to Royal Preston Hospital Pic: Blog Preston

Royal Preston Hospital staff created an app which helped to minimise contact time between patients and staff, winning them a Media Management Award in 2020.

Prestonians were keen to learn how residents were going to make their way out of tier 3 restrictions, but then a full lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson which was set to last until 2 December.

November 2020

An ambulance leaving a depot Pic: Raymondo166
An ambulance leaving a depot Pic: Raymondo166

To start off the month, the North West Ambulance Service declared a ‘major incident.’

At the same time, Prestonians were being warned about people impersonating Covid marshals as people were fraudulently trying to enter people’s homes.

Preston remembered those who lost their lives in battle on Remembrance Sunday which fell on 8 November 2020. Sadly though, celebrations could not go ahead as normal due to Covid cases.

People were still determined to raise money for those less fortunate during the pandemic, and a tutor from Cardinal Newman College decided to create an album of donated songs to raise money for a foodbank charity.

Dawn breaking over Preston on Thursday 18 November Pic: Tony Worrall
Dawn breaking over Preston on Thursday 18 November Pic: Tony Worrall

Preston tumbled out of the top 50 places for high coronavirus infection rates for the first time in months, giving locals hope for a better future.

People across England were told about the Christmas ‘bubble’ restrictions, and hope was restored that Christmas may go ahead as ‘usual’ – albeit a little differently, but then Prestonians were told they were set to go back into tier 3 once the national lockdown was over.

December 2020

Vaccination. Pic: Pixabay

December was a really busy month – it was a month where people were struggling due to the winter, but there seemed to be a tangible flicker of light at the end of the tunnel this time.

The Covid vaccination roll-out was beginning to get underway, and staff at
Royal Preston Hospital were given the jab in December.

The news all seemed to centre around the vaccination, but this was giving hope to many Prestonians in a time which felt hopeless for thousands.

Doreen receiving her first dose of the Covid vaccine

On Monday, 8 December, the first Covid vaccination was given in Preston to
Doreen McKeown,
an 81-year-old volunteer at the hospital.

A Penwortham care home vaccinated 30 of their staff members and the government hinted there were mass vaccination plans in the pipeline.

In non-coronavirus related news, an emergency grant of £7,876 was given to Rosemere Cancer Foundation by the ‘Lancashire Responding’ Covid-19 Community Support Fund, allowing them to keep helping patients.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus vaccine was ready to be offered to the most vulnerable across Preston, but Covid cases continued to rise and Preston was set to remain under tier 3 restrictions.

Boris Johnson during a press conference on Saturday (19 December) Pic: No10DowningStreet
Boris Johnson during a press conference on Saturday (19 December) Pic: No10DowningStreet

In a devastating blow to many, Prestonians were told by the PM they would only be allowed to bubble up on Christmas Day, and not the five day period they were initially promised.

There were talks of a new Covid variant before Christmas at a time where many people across England were swiftly changing their Christmas plans.

Cases were steadily rising still in Christmas Day and Boxing Day and there were rumours of a tier 5.

Preston and Lancashire moved into tier 4 on 31 December, much to the leader of Preston City Council’s dismay and those who were hoping for a fresh start in the new year were rapidly losing hope.

January 2021

A book exchange at a primary school in Preston Pic: Tony Worrall
A book exchange at a primary school in Preston Pic: Tony Worrall

With so much uncertainty surrounding everything, Lancashire County Council released a statement about the re-opening of schools across Preston and South Ribble, reassuring parents children would return as normal.

At the same time, UCLan students were told it was likely they would not return until 25 January and some primary schools made the decision to remain closed due to rising infection rates.

People were given tips on how to survive lockdown by a Preston yoga teacher as we rapidly approached the year anniversary of lockdown, but we learned the saddening news that over 1,000 Covid related deaths had been recorded in the region, and cases were continuing to rise.

The Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine began to be given by GPs, but there were teething problems with the roll-out.

Examples of the kind of scam texts and emails being sent Pic: Lancs Police Fraud and Cyber
Examples of the kind of scam texts and emails being sent Pic: Lancs Police Fraud and Cyber

Fraudsters took the opportunity to offer fake vaccines via text to try and phish people’s information and police warned residents to be vigilant.

A gym in Ribbleton was shut down for the fifth time by police for breaking Covid rules and more businesses across Preston were being fined and handed notices for not adhering to restrictions.

The police warned would-be criminals about their presence during lockdown and the government promised all adults would receive their first dose of a vaccine by September 2021, giving people hope.

Blackburn Cathedral Vaccination Hub

A vaccination hub was opened in Blackburn Cathedral and over 80s in the surrounding area were told they may get an invite for their first jab.

A very strange burglary took place mid-January which baffled locals – the man stole coronavirus testing kits and Boris Johnson said he was unsure about easing any restrictions too soon.

Thankfully, cases began to fall in Preston and people were being urged to get a Covid test, even if they did not have ‘classic symptoms.’

UCLan students led a national fundraiser to help the families of healthcare workers who have died from Covid-19.

February 2021

Many children were learning from home. Pic: Pixabay

There were talks of scrapping the tier system for regions and South Ribble Borough Council said they would spend £20,000 on e-learning tablets for disadvantaged children being home-schooled due to the pandemic.

A mass vaccination centre was ready to open in Preston inside a former B&M Bargains store and the over 70s were being urged to get their first vaccine whilst a Prestonian woman was urging the South Asian community to get vaccinated.

The military were praised for their efforts in rolling out the vaccine and Muslim communities across Preston were reminded that the Covid vaccination is halal.

Alexander Mckenna receiving his vaccination. Pic: @CentralLancCCGs

Preston’s mass vaccination centre delivered one of the first jabs to the city to Alexander Mckenna who said it was a ‘great relief’ to have received it.

Prestonians were told about the easing of lockdown, and PM Boris Johnson gave us a ‘road-map’ out of restrictions, which is, of course, subject to change.

Residents aged 65 to 69 were urged to book a vaccine as older people continued to receive their first dose.

March 2021

Preston's Market canopy glowing green Pic: Tony Worrall
Preston’s Market canopy glowing green Pic: Tony Worrall

Preston residents who are unable to work from home were urged to get tested for Covid-19 regularly to help stop the spread whilst Preston dropped out of the top 10 infection areas.

Residents aged 56 to 59 were given the green light to book their vaccination, showing that the roll-out was going to plan and two areas in Penwortham were almost Covid-free.

NHS text alerts were sent out to notify residents about getting their jab and almost 622,000 people had their vaccination across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Businesses providing close contact services were invited to attend a free webinar on safely reopening whilst the PM assured people the Oxford jab is completely safe amid blood clot fears.

Catforth Primary School teddies
The teddies attend assembly Pic: Catforth Primary School

A Catforth Primary School used 100 teddy bears to help children and staff stay connected throughout the pandemic, spreading hope and joy amongst pupils.

Shops are still hoping to reopen on 12 April and they are putting extra safety measures in place to ensure the safety of shoppers.

The PM received his first coronavirus jab and hopes of environmentally friendly PPE are on the horizon.

Preston’s coronavirus rate has reached a new low, but the government are discussing extending their lockdown powers until October.

The Harris was lit in yellow last night to remember those we have lost over the past year. Pic: Tony Worrall

23 March 2021, marked the one year anniversary since we went into a lockdown.

Iconic buildings across Preston and Lancashire were bathed in yellow light in memory of loved ones who have been lost over the last year thanks to the Day of Reflection, which was spearheaded by Marie Curie.

County Hall. Pic: @LancashireCC

The past year has been a roller-coaster and collectively, we’ve felt every emotion possible during this difficult time.

We’ve shown such resilience though, and with the vaccines and things reopening shortly, we can only hope for things to go back to ‘normal’ soon.

If you are struggling, please remember there is a wealth of support available including Samaritans (116 123) and Mind.

As lockdown restrictions are set to ease in the coming days, what do you think the future holds for Preston and the rest of the UK?

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