One year on: How Dereham fought through a year of Covid
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
This time last year, the country was facing its first national Coronavirus lockdown. Reporter ABIGAIL NICHOLSON explores how one Norfolk town came together and fought through the pandemic one year on.
It's safe to say, many of us were naive in how long we thought the pandemic would last this time last year.
But after announcing the country was heading into a national lockdown, residents in Dereham pulled together to support each other in a way that hadn't been seen before.
Dereham mayor Stuart Green honoured the hundreds of volunteers in the town who helped the town thrive during the last year.
He said: "The town, country and world have come through a very tough year.
"It was great to see the community come together during the first lockdown with people volunteering to help with prescription/food deliveries and phone calls to help those isolated and shielding.
"Businesses have been hit hard with closures during lockdown, but it’s been great to see how some have been able to adapt to help them operate; outdoor food trailers, offering delivery/takeaway and more outdoor seating.
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"Hopefully when they are allowed to reopen in the coming months the town can get back into these restaurants and cafes and support them so they stay open."
Mr Green also spoke of how the residents' perseverance to government set rules meant the virus levels remained relatively low compared to the rest of the country.
He added: "We are very fortunate not to have had a large number of cases, compared to some other areas in UK.
"Cases are back now to a low level and with the fast rate of vaccination we will hopefully continue with these low case levels and look forward to the easing of restrictions and enjoying the town again."
Dereham Cares, which was set up by district councillor Alison Webb, continues to deliver prescriptions, food parcels and make phone calls to vulnerable people in Toftwood and Dereham.
Mrs Webb said: "I couldn't have asked any more from any of the volunteers, and they're still helping people now one year on.
"When it started and I came up with the idea, I never ever thought it would end up with what we have got. We have 150 volunteers and three coordinators, they're all so good and I can't thank them enough.
"Going forward I don't intend to close Dereham Cares, I'm going to look at it at the end of April and see what the demand is but we will not be dropping people who want isolation phone calls and prescriptions."
With the pandemic came a year of disruption for students in the district, as many had to adjust from online learning at home.
Shannon O'Sullivan, headteacher of Thomas Bullock CE Primary Academy in Shipdham said she was "so proud" of her pupils after a lockdown-ridden 2020.
She said: "After what has been a challenging third lockdown, we have been so proud of the achievements of our pupils, parents and staff over their engagement, perseverance and achievements throughout home learning."
Kelly Scott, headteacher of Dereham Church of England Junior Academy, added that her team worked through holidays and even offered spaces to children from another local school during the Easter break.
She said: "Our relationships with families have further strengthened over the past year and this has certainly been a positive amongst the challenges.
"We are so incredibly proud of how well the children have returned to school and are thankful to the families have who have been so supportive of their learning during these times, despite many having faced their own challenges."
One of the sectors most affected in the last year were businesses, which were forced to constantly keep up with rules and restrictions in order to stay open.
The owners of Shampooches of Dereham, Wendy Barker and Janette Chamberlain, said their re-opening on April 12 "can't come quickly enough".
Mrs Barker said: "Over the last year Shampooches of Dereham like most have fought to keep going and to be here when the lockdown is lifted.
"Our customers have been truly amazing and have show their support for us, and it really is appreciated, they have done all we have asked of them by using sanitizer and wearing masks and even handing over their beloved dogs outside the shop to be covid safe.
"Reopening on April 12 can’t come quickly enough for us, we’ve dreamt of this for so long and we can’t wait to get back to some sort of new normal!"