The Covid Diaries: Seven North East people reflect on the last 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic

In December an important campaign was launched to urge people in the North East not to let their guard down in the fight against Covid-19.

During that time people were encouraged to keep the following rules and to keep up the huge efforts being made.

The campaign is used online at BeatCovidNE.co.uk.

As part of this we have been featuring the ‘Covid Diaries’ in which seven people from different parts of the region and different walks of life share their experiences.

And now we have reached the final segment of the diaries.

They have been candidly sharing their experiences of national lockdown.

They have been sharing how it is effecting their day-to-day lives – the difficulties and challenges they and their families and colleagues are overcoming.

Here we have the final entries in their Covid Diaries.




“The BeatCovidNE message is so important. It’s about everyone sticking to the rules to stop the spread of Covid and protect lives. I have really enjoyed being a part of it and getting that message across.”

56-year-old Dave Langley is a clinical care manager for North East Ambulance Service, based at Pallion. In this role, he is a frontline manager for emergency ambulance crews, a job he’s done for 34-years. He lives in South Shields, with his partner, Denise, who is a nurse on a Covid-19 ward.

“Who would have known we’d be living life the way we are this time last year? I don’t think anyone could have predicted where we are right now. I remember work this time last March.

We were massively focused on ensuring every member of staff had PPE and we put in place robust Covid safe measures that remain today. I’ll never forget that very first lockdown. While we became very hectic with Covid call outs, I remember thinking how surreal it was to see empty streets and quiet roads with hospitals the only places that were busy.

The number of deaths Covid has created, both directly and indirectly, has been devastating. It’s been a difficult time for everyone and I think we all know

someone who has been affected by Covid itself or from the repeated lockdowns and continued restrictions.

The good news is, 12 months on, we’re in a stronger position than ever. The vaccine programme is surging ahead and, as a community, we have really pulled together and followed the ‘hands, face, space’ message as much as possible.

I do think a third Covid wave is a genuine threat but we’re doing all we can to keep it at bay. We must remember though – the vaccine is not a cure. It’s not going to make Covid disappear. The impact of the vaccine, in time, will hopefully be a large reduction in hospital admissions so the NHS isn’t overwhelmed. The number of people in hospital with Covid must get to a manageable level and stay there for several months before any relaxation on the measures we’ve become so accustomed to can happen.

This is why the social distancing rules – washing hands, wearing masks and keeping our distance – is still vital in managing the virus. It’s these rules that’s got us to where we are today. It’s helped to cut the transmission of the virus which has given us the ability to get it under control and continue to vaccinate as many people as possible.

By following the rules, everyone has done their bit in helping to tackle the virus.

Thank you for keeping going, I know it’s tough. I am desperate for some normality which I am sure we all are. I miss the enjoyment of a pub lunch or just nipping out for a quick pint with a mate. It might not sound like much but you realise how important such activities are when you can’t do them.

I’ve enjoyed being part of the BeatCovidNE campaign – it’s amazing how many people have seen me whether it’s in the paper, on the TV or at the bus stop. The campaign’s message is so important. It’s about everyone sticking to the rules to stop the spread of Covid and protect lives.

If we want our normal lives back, we need to keep washing our hands, wearing our masks and keeping our social distance. I also think everyone who can get vaccinated should. It’s great that nearly half of all adults in South Tyneside are vaccinated now and I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you who have received the vaccine. We shouldn’t forget about the role testing plays either.

Regular testing allows us to keep on top of Covid so if you do experience any symptoms please self-isolate and get tested as soon as possible.”




“The restrictions aren’t going to be here forever – so let’s all work together to get to the other side of this.”

Jas Singh is 42 and works as a bus driver for Go North East. He loves cycling around Seaham, where he lives with his wife Kamal and six year-old son Mann.

“It has been great to see all of the kids go back to school over the last week. As I’m a key worker, my son Mann was able to go to school for a few days a week during lockdown – but seeing him reunited with all of his friends properly this week has been lovely. Kids thrive on their routines and I think it’s really good for them all to be back together again. The days we needed to homeschool were tough, like many other families – so I think it’s good for the parents too that the children are back again.

Whilst at work, I’ve noticed the buses and roads have been a lot busier now that the schools have gone back. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, only a limited number of passengers are allowed on the bus at the same time to ensure the vehicle is always Covid-secure. Bus drivers can monitor the number of people on the bus using our ticket machines at the front, which is a great way for us to be able keep our passengers safe.

To accommodate for the extra passengers travelling to school, Go North East has put on more buses during rush hour to ensure there is space for everyone to travel safely. It’s so important that we keep the buses safe and I’m really thankful to all of my passengers for observing social distancing measures and wearing their masks.

By all of us working together and doing our bit, the Covid infection rates have continued to drop. I know that a lot of people have now had their vaccine which is great news, but I also think that our combined effort in following the rules has made a tremendous difference too.

I am really looking forward to the next stage of the Prime Minister’s roadmap on 29th March and hope that the data allows us to take another step out of Covid restrictions at that point. However, whilst I know the majority of people are doing the right thing and abiding by the rules, unfortunately there are still some who are visibly not following Government advice. I would say to anyone who isn’t following guidelines or who is thinking about meeting others, to please think again – your actions could be putting lives at risk. We all have to pull together to get through each step of the roadmap and get to the summer restriction-free and safe again.

I was thinking recently about how it’s almost a year now since Covid changed all of our lives in so many ways. The last 12 months have made me more grateful for things I used to take for granted – like having a secure job and a loving family at home. This pandemic has brought loss to so many people and I think that anyone who gets to the other side of Covid who hasn’t lost a loved one or their job, is one of the lucky ones.

So let’s not dwell on holidays we may have lost or days out we would have enjoyed – if we are healthy and still have our loved ones, then we should count our blessings every day. The restrictions aren’t going to be here forever – so let’s all work together to get to the other side of this.”




“I can’t quite believe that it’s been one year since lockdown. It’s been a complex 12 months that has turned everything upside down.”

Sam Connor, 33, works at King Edward VI School, Morpeth as an associate assistant headteacher. Originally from Northern Ireland, Sam moved to the North East ten years ago, teaching first in Durham before moving to Morpeth. He is married to Natalie and has three young children, Lucah, 7, Raphael, 6 and Rocco, 3.

“It’s been a good week at school. Everyone is gradually settling into their new routine and there’s a positive vibe amongst students and teachers. It’s the same at home. Our children are enjoying a sense of normality and as parents, we’re benefiting from more structured days.

I can’t quite believe that it’s been one year since lockdown. It’s been a complex 12 months that has turned everything upside down. Covid has posed many questions about our daily lives. Now is the time to reflect on how we can move forward to create a brighter future. To address not only how to live with Covid but how as a society we can rebuild to become stronger, by working together.

For me, the pandemic has made me realise how resourceful and supportive people are in times of adversity. I feel no matter what comes next we can face it, together. Seeing the effect Covid has had on children across the North East is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced. Families have been affected on so many levels. From job losses to the death of loved ones. All of this has impacted children.

Schools have and are doing their best to help students. As a society, we need to ensure moving forwards children of all ages receive the wrap-around educational,

physical and mental support they need. To reintegrate and achieve their ambitions.

They’re our future.



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The initial lockdown, while a worrying time, also gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with my family. Entertaining three young children has been challenging but it’s made us realise the joy of going back to basics. Board games, gardening, baking, arts and crafts; we’ve done it all and it’s been brilliant.

I owe a lot to my wife Natalie. Throughout lockdown, she’s run her own business, looked after the kids and supported me. She is the glue that binds our family together. She’s been amazing.

At the beginning of the academic year in 2019, I took on the role of associate assistant headteacher. I never could have anticipated what was to come.

Throughout the pandemic, I realised just how important my role as a leader was.

While it’s been stressful, I’ve lost sleep over key decisions and I’ve had to learn things along the way – I’ve loved every second of it. I’m so thankful for the trust and support from all my colleagues. Being able to directly help students, their families and teaching staff is hugely rewarding.

I hope by sharing my Covid experience I’ve helped people to see that it is possible to find your way through challenging times. I’ve not shied away from sharing the bad times but personally, I always look for the positives in life. That’s what keeps me going.

I’d like to thank everyone for doing their bit. Every time you put on a mask, keep your distance and sanitise, you’re helping to reduce the spread of the virus and to save lives. They may seem small actions but those daily rituals being duplicated by everyone across the North East will help us ease out of lockdown. Thank you and please keep it up.”




“I love my job. The last 12 months have been unprecedented but I’m proud to have been able to serve to protect my community.”

Amii Stewart is a 29-year-old Police Officer with Northumbria Police covering North Shields in North Tyneside. She works with communities as a Neighbourhood PC to help keep them safe and Covid transmissions down – which is currently a big part of her job. Amii is bubbled with her grandad, Derek, in his late 70s, who she’s seen most days since the beginning of the pandemic. Derek lives just a 10-minute drive away from her house and each week she gets his shopping and makes sure he’s keeping well following her granny’s passing in September.

“I’ve been busy this week. I’ve handed in my last postgraduate diploma assignment. It’s been a labour of love but I’m looking forward to a study break.

I’ve also completed my second week at the Secondary Investigation Unit (SIU). This department deals with interviewing suspects and building files for court proceedings. As a Neighbourhood PC, it’s been a great opportunity to broaden my skill set and work with the Crown Prosecution Service.

While work is always busy I do feel lucky to be on the frontline as a Police Officer. I love my job. The last 12-months have been unprecedented but I’m proud to have been able to serve and protect my community.

I never thought I’d live through something like this in my lifetime. Unfortunately, so many haven’t made it. My granny passed away in September last year. I only saw her through the door when I dropped off shopping until she was in the hospital at the end. Not being able to give her a cuddle was heartbreaking. Like so many others, losing a loved one is one of the hardest things I’ve faced.

My fiancée losing her job, her being seriously ill with Covid and us having to cancel our wedding have also been huge challenges. I can’t thank her enough for her support and optimism throughout the pandemic. No matter what, she always makes me smile.

When faced with these challenges it’s made me realise how important it is for me to take a step back and to relax. Staying home has forced me to rediscover enjoying my own company. Something I never made the time for pre-Covid.

Being bubbled with my grandad during lockdown has been brilliant. I’m so glad I’ve been able to help him with his shopping, to go for walks and be there for him especially after my granny passed away. He’s keeping well and is looking forward to his second dose of the vaccine.

I’d like to thank my colleagues for all of their support. We’re a close-knit team with lots of banter that keeps us going through the day. While we have as a force been affected by Covid, just like everyone else, together we stand as one.

I’ve enjoyed being a part of the BeatCovidNE campaign because it has felt like a positive movement. I’m so proud of how the North East has come together to fight Covid. We’ve achieved so much in 12 months.

Thank you for following the rules. Thank you to all of the key workers, everyone who has worked and those that have had to stay at home. Thank you to all of the volunteers supporting local communities and the NHS.

I urge everyone to continue being selfless. The vaccine is amazing but it’s not a cure. We need to keep protecting the NHS and saving lives with each step we take out of lockdown. Hands, face and space is a small price to pay for summer with our loved ones. Let’s make it possible.”




“I’m following the rules and I’ve chosen to be vaccinated to protect others and help the NHS. Please do your bit too – it’s so important.”

Brenda Naisby is a 80-year-old grandma who lives in Washington, Sunderlandwho has formed a support bubble with her daughter and grandchildren who live near her.

“The last year has been quite a mixed bag of emotions, hasn’t it? We know much more about the virus now and we’re more in control. We know how easily it spreads. We know what stops the spread and that’s following the rules of regularly washing our hands, wearing our masks and social distancing.

On the other hand, I remember this time last year the fear I had about this invisible and highly contagious virus. The number of deaths has been so upsetting. It’s also been awful to see how many people have been impacted mentally by the restrictions and lockdown. Some have lost their jobs. Some haven’t been able to work for the best part of a year. But we are where we are and I think we need to focus on the positives and how close we are to getting over this.

I do think we are going to have a routine vaccine every year for Covid as time goes on, like we do with the flu. Covid is a much more serious virus and we can’t leave it unchecked. This is why we’re living the way we are now but 12 months on since it first started we have learnt so much about it. I do think we will live normally again as we continue to understand the virus and how it works.

One thing that I think all of us have learnt is how important basic hygiene measures are. And I think this has changed our lives forever. We’ll be so much more mindful of clean hands and mixing socially when not feeling 100%.

Right now though transmission is still happening and although lots more of us are now vaccinated including myself, we can’t rely on the vaccine alone to get us out of this.

This is why washing hands, wearing masks and keeping social contact to a minimum is something we all have to keep doing. That message is so important. I got involved with the BeatCovidNE campaign because I wanted to help in any way I could. If sharing my experiences of living through the pandemic and lockdown as an older person living alone has helped just one person get through it too, then it’s all been worth doing.

The commitment and perseverance you have shown has been unbelievable and I thank each and every one of you for that. It’s also been so heart-warming to see local communities come together to help people and provide support to those who are isolated and on their own. The NHS has been heroic.

Every one of us has changed how we live our daily lives to protect each other. What we need to focus on now is ensuring we all get the vaccine. I have got the vaccine not just to protect my health but anyone else I come into contact with, whether that’s a loved one or a total stranger. I’m following the rules and I’ve chosen to be vaccinated to protect others and help the NHS. Please do your bit too – it’s so important.”




“By following the rules, we have helped to save lives. If we continue to follow them as lockdown loosens, we’ll help to protect even more lives. Let’s keep going.”

Carol Duncan, 54, works in the pharmacy at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

“I remember this time last year when shops and restaurants were voluntarily closing. There were no legal restrictions in place but there was a sense of eeriness and fear. No one knew what this virus was or where it came from. It felt even more frightening being a clinically vulnerable frontline NHS worker too – I didn’t know what to expect.

Fast forward 12 months and washing hands regularly, wearing masks and keeping our social contacts to a minimum feels so normal, doesn’t it? Working in one of the busiest hospitals in the North East, I cannot thank you all enough for your commitment to following lockdown rules, helping the NHS to be in the position it is today and leading one of the world’s strongest vaccination programmes.

In the last year I have seen so many NHS workers continue to do all they can to help people despite being under such intense and often relentless pressure. My work family is there for me on a bad day and there to celebrate the good days as well. I don’t know how I’d have got through it without them. We’ve adapted so well to the strict Covid measures in place at the hospital, minimising the spread of Covid as much as we can. I feel totally safe at work. Although it can be tricky to navigate, we’re motivated to stick to the measures because we know how vital they are in ensuring we can stay on top of the virus.

By using hand sanitiser wherever you go, wearing a mask in a public place and keeping your distance from people wherever possible, you’re helping the region to fight the pandemic and getting closer to more normal lives. Something I know we’re all desperate to do.

Whilst the outlook is positive, we need to acknowledge that, as we unlock, the prospect of a third wave poses a real threat. As individuals, we must realise how important the part we play in following the rules is. While outdoors mixing will soon be legal, we still shouldn’t visit family and friends at home. I know it’s tough but please don’t pop in for that cuppa or invite your friend and their family round for tea. Meet them in the park or enjoy some fresh air along the coast instead.

It’s been such a privilege to be one of the faces in the BeatCovidNE campaign. It’s highlighted the power that collective responsibility has where we choose to wash our hands regularly, wear face coverings and keep our social distance to help protect ourselves and others.

The North East community have shown just how important togetherness is at a time of hardship and heartbreak and how determined we are to do what it takes to get us through such dark times. By following the rules, we have helped to save lives. If we continue to follow them as lockdown loosens, we’ll help to protect even more lives. Let’s keep going.”



#BeatCovidNE campaign. Sister Kelly Turner on Ward 12 (Respiratory Support Unit) at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington.

“I’m proud to be working on the frontline for the NHS. It has been and still is challenging but in equal parts, it’s hugely rewarding. You can make such a huge difference to someone’s life.”

Holly Turner, 26, is a sister on Ward 12, a respiratory support unit at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington. On the ward, she cares for those living with the significant effects of Covid. She lives in Morpeth, with her partner, Michael, a type one diabetic.

“I’ve been working nights this week. It’s been steady and I’ve had a great team supporting me. Ward 12’s Respiratory Support Unit (RSU) is still full. One of the main reasons is because non-Covid patients would normally respond to treatment in a matter of days. Covid patients can take a week or longer. It’s a long process and with the number of admissions, it can be challenging.

Michael received his appointment for the vaccine. It’s great news but we do both feel apprehensive. Michael has suffered severe reactions to other vaccines. We know in the majority of cases most side effects of the Covid vaccine are mild and only last for a short time. Hopefully, everything will be fine or just last a few days.

I can’t believe this is my last diary. Looking back on the past year it has been a rollercoaster of emotions.

It’s been relentless working on the frontline. I was in my new role for one month before the pandemic hit. It’s been a challenging 12-months that’s made me realise just how resilient I am.

Ward 12 has endured some emotional shifts. So many patients, including couples and relatives, have passed away. So many families have been left heartbroken. It’s the hardest part of the job. Covid is so cruel. Patients can sit-up and talk to you normally but they’re dying. You know as soon as you remove their mask they’ll pass away imminently.

The whole team has found it hard. I always remind them that we are doing the very best we can. We’re giving our patients and their families the support they need. That’s all we can do.

I’m proud to work for the NHS. It has been, and still is, challenging but in equal parts it’s hugely rewarding. You can make a huge difference in someone’s life. It’s what being a nurse is all about. To hold a patient’s hand while they pass away, supporting their family, to helping a patient to walk out of the ward following their recovery. Every day we give the best possible care.

At home, Covid has meant I’m constantly worrying about my family and friends. The hardest time was when my mum and I both had Covid. Not being able to help look after her when she was so ill was devastating.

I’ll never take for granted being able to visit my parent’s for a cuppa. It’s the small things I miss. Usually, I’d be giving my best friend a hand renovating her new house or we’d pop over to see Michael’s sister’s new baby. Along with all the missed birthdays and celebrations, I can’t wait to catch up with everyone again.

I’m really lucky to have such a supportive fiancé. After a hard shift, I always know he’s there to talk to. I can’t thank him enough for being there for me. I just can’t wait to hopefully get married this year and move forward with our lives together.

I also have to thank my family and friends for always being there to talk to. Especially my mum who I call after every shift. When I get home Lily, one of our dogs, is always there waiting for me. I’m so grateful when she cuddles into me in bed. It’s as if she knows when I’ve had a hard day.

I’d like to thank everyone who has read my diaries. I hope they’ve given you an insight into what it’s like working on the frontline within the NHS. It’s been a surreal experience. One I’m proud to have been a part of.

My final message for the North East is thank you to everyone for doing your bit. Your contributions have helped us realise a roadmap out of lockdown. Please continue to play your part. So with each step, we can move forward together to a brighter future.”

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