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Meet Brenda. She’s 80 and lives alone, close to her daughter and grandchildren, who she’s in a bubble with.

Brenda Naisby

Brenda's Diary

Meet Brenda. She wants to thank everyone in the North East for doing their bit to slow the spread of Covid. She’s one of the faces of the #BeatCovidNE campaign asking everyone to keep going.

Covid’s been hard on Brenda. Like everyone it’s meant she’s not been able to hug her grandkids or meet her friends, and living alone it’s been isolating and lonely.

She wants to do her bit to slow the spread so she can get back to normal and enjoy life to the full again.

25.03.21

“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.”

“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.”

18.03.21

“The virus is still out there, living alongside us. Washing hands, wearing masks and minimising social contact has helped us to get the upper hand but it can so easily change - just like it did after the first wave.”

“We waved off my granddaughter Ellie last week who has now returned to college down in Canterbury. She was super excited. Things are not quite the same, she has to wear her mask at all times when at college and use those lateral flow tests at home twice a week to check whether she’s carrying Covid or not.

Although the last thing anyone wants to do is a Covid test twice a week, I think we all have a role to play in keeping this virus at bay. By testing herself, she’s keeping her college community safe including her friends and their families. The testing regime is also enabling face-to-face education which all young people are yearning for.

At the beginning of the year, the outlook was bleak. It was awful watching the news and I remember feeling quite hopeless. We’re now three months down the line and we’ve achieved so much. Yes, the vaccine rollout is going great guns and I think the North East is doing a sterling job with it, but we also need to give credit to ourselves for cracking on with lockdown and following the rules. We’ve all been so religious about washing our hands regularly, wearing our masks and minimising social contact wherever possible and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in now. Because we’ve done this, supported by the vaccine programme, I feel confident about coming out of lockdown, as long as we do it very cautiously. We’re not in the clear just yet though - there are still hurdles to face.

Even though we are slowly easing lockdown, I can’t see my day-to-day life changing much. Eventually I do want to enjoy everything I used to like meeting friends and enjoying group activities but it’s small steps for me right now. The first relaxation in restrictions that I’m looking forward to is being able to go a little further afield. I can’t wait to walk around Druridge Bay on a gorgeous sunny day.

Right now though, we must remember that the most vulnerable people in society aren’t fully vaccinated. I know families are desperate to get together again but we must understand that indoor socialising is still not safe.

The virus is still out there, living alongside us. Washing hands, wearing masks and minimising social contact has helped us to get the upper hand but it can so easily change – just like it did after the first wave. I am worried about a new variant developing that might be vaccine resistant. That’s why unlocking must be done so carefully and why everyone needs to do the right thing in sticking to the guidelines.

When I look back on the last year, the amount of kindness right across the North East has really warmed my heart. There are so many unsung heroes. Lots of people went out of their way to pick up a bottle of milk or some bread for those who were shielding, or a prescription they needed. Everyone came together for the greater good and to help their local community. The North East spirit has really shone through - we should never forget that.”

11.03.21

“We must remember that indoor socialising is still not safe. We can’t mix with people indoors. If we do this, it’s going to set back our journey to freedom. It is a case of ‘Keep calm and carry on’.”

“I’ve been busy helping my granddaughter Ellie, who’s in my support bubble, get ready to return to college in Canterbury. My daughter Alison and I have been organising her clothes, helping with her weekly meal plans and ensuring she has everything she needs for her studies. She’s raided her mother’s wardrobe and taken clothes that Alison used to wear at Ellie’s age. Ellie is now the excited owner of some vintage, classic outfits!

She can’t wait to go back and experience some normality as well as warmer temperatures. I know everyone is getting a bit impatient now and we’re all desperate to get out and about. Infection numbers and the death rate are falling each week which is reassuring and evidence that we are heading in the right direction.

With everyone talking about the roadmap out of lockdown and a post-Covid life, it’s very important to remember that the message hasn’t changed. We should all stay at home as much as we possibly can. This is not the time to celebrate victory over the virus, it’s about getting your head down, staying patient and sticking to the rules of keeping social contact to a minimum, wearing masks and washing hands regularly.

Soon enough I know we’ll be able to travel outside our local area but I am still planning to stay local. I think we should take small steps towards normality so we don’t have to go through another lockdown. My daughter’s birthday is in mid-April so I am hoping to enjoy a birthday lunch with her outdoors following the second stage of relaxations. It’ll be the first time in a year that I’ll be visiting somewhere to enjoy a bite to eat. I’ll still be cautious from a hygiene perspective and keeping my distance from others but I am looking forward to it. Let’s hope it’s a fine glorious spring day.

The North East vaccination rollout continues to impress me. We’re so ahead of the game. The NHS and local councils have done a fabulous job. We all need to keep playing our part by following the rules daily.

Although schools are back and we can meet another person in the park, we must remember that indoor socialising is still not safe. We can’t mix with people indoors. If we do this, it’s going to set back our journey to freedom. It is a case of ‘Keep calm and carry on’. We just need to bide our time, stay at home and remember why we’re doing it: to keep the Covid R number down and ourselves and others safe. We’re a year into restrictions now and I know it gets tougher month by month but we can’t take our foot off the gas yet.”

04.03.21

“The virus is still out there, circulating in communities. We’re going to have to learn to live with it but the only safe way to do that is through following the rules.”

“It’s been a decent week weather wise so I’ve been pottering around in the garden, tidying it up and getting it ready for spring. I love spending time in my garden in the spring, watching the flowers grow and bloom. It looks so pretty. I also like spring because it’s the season of new beginnings and following the news about the roadmap out of lockdown, I feel like we are at the start of the rest of our lives.

I haven’t socialised in nearly a year. That’s a long time. When the first relaxation of lockdown comes into force, I’m looking forward to meeting a friend in the park just to sit (a safe distance away) and chat over a nice warm coffee. I agree that young people should be prioritised as we unlock the country with children returning to education and organised sports being the first key steps towards normality. They have missed out on so much; it’ll be great to see children walking to school again.

These relaxations are the first small steps towards freedom but we must get it right this time. I don’t think we can handle another national lockdown so that’s why the government’s approach of slowly and cautiously coming out of lockdown is right. Slow and steady wins the race.

It’s only natural to get impatient around the restrictions on everyday life but Covid is a devastating virus. It’s affected thousands of families across the region. I have recently lost someone I’ve known for nearly 50 years to Covid. It’s fatal for some and we must understand that and realise that the rules save lives.

Wearing masks, sanitising hands and keeping our distance is so vital. Also, we must remember that the ‘stay at home’ message is still in place. Although infection levels and hospital admissions are falling, the number of people needing care because of Covid is still too high. We can’t take risks now, not at this stage.

The vaccination rollout continues to impress me. The government has done a sterling job. We need to recognise the role regional councils and local NHS trusts have played too in ensuring that everyone in our local areas who is eligible for the vaccine at this stage can access it.

The virus is still out there, circulating in communities. We are going to have to learn to live with it but the only safe way to do that is through following basic hygiene rules. ‘Hands, face, space’ remains so important.

We don’t want to experience this again which is why we must be cautious. We must remain vigilant. We can’t rely on the vaccine yet to protect us – it’s all about the rules. Keep going, we’re slowly but surely coming out of this and that’s because of our hard work and diligence so far. We just need to grit our teeth. If we stay compliant, we can hopefully enjoy a fabulously warm summer with a lot more freedom.”

25.02.21

“We just need to dig our heels in and get the infection rate down to a manageable level so that we can live our lives again.”

“It’s been quite an exciting week. My granddaughter had a Zoom interview with Falmouth University, one of the best universities in the country for fine art. It went well  - she got an unconditional offer! It also filled me with hope that normality will return at some point and she can go to university.

I know it’s hard to think about life before Covid. I do think that social distancing is here to stay and it needs to stay if I’m honest. Wearing masks, sanitising hands and keeping two metres apart remains key to ensuring long term management of Covid as, of course, does the vaccination programme. We must learn to live with the virus and social distancing rules are crucial in enabling us to do this.

I was reading how the UK R rate is below 1. It’s good news and shows how the vast majority of people in the region have knuckled down and got on with the task at hand – reducing the infection rate. What we now need to do is keep it this way. Even though I’ve had the vaccine and my neighbours have too we are still not socialising with one another or anyone else. We know we’re so close to being reunited though, which is something positive to focus on. 

I think Covid has driven awareness of the role basic hygiene plays in keeping viruses at bay. As well as regular hand sanitisation, I always wipe down the shopping trolley when I visit the supermarket and then wipe down my shopping once I am back home.

We know that infections are coming down and the death toll is slowing but we still need to beat the Covid drum. The vaccination programme is going from strength-to-strength but it’s not yet our fail-safe way of protection. We need our second dose and we also need the vast majority of the population to be fully immunised. That’s why the rules matter. Hands, face, space is the way we can protect ourselves. We don’t want to return to where we are now or where we’ve been. It’s a test of self-discipline. We just need to dig our heels in and get the infection rate down to a manageable level so that we can live our lives again.


I know how awful it’s been mentally, especially for young people. I saw a lot of children loving life last week enjoying the snow in a socially distant, safe way. It was great to see smiles on faces, hear laughter and watch families enjoy time outdoors.

My friend sent me a photo the other day of me on the back of a bus. I’m amazed at how widespread the BeatCovidNE campaign is. It’s getting a very important message across to so many people. I like the way it conveys everyday life in a pandemic, reflecting the highs and lows. My family think it’s wonderful – Sunderland superstar they say.

The vaccination programme is here now and it’s only going to get better. Treatment for Covid is getting stronger too, saving more lives. All the odds are stacked in our favour. We just have to bide our time. We’re nearly there.”

18.02.21

“Every generation has been impacted by Covid either from the virus directly or through the lockdown effects. It’s traumatic. That’s why it’s so vital to keep talking to one another. Do the small things that make you happy.”

“I’ve realised the importance of support bubbles this week not just for myself but for my daughter and grandchildren too. My daughter hurt her back and has been pretty much out of action so I’ve been going down to theirs - they live five minutes away - cooking everyone’s tea and helping around the house. We’ve supported each other throughout the entire pandemic - something I feel extremely grateful for.

Thinking of gratitude, it’s sad news about Captain Sir Tom Moore. He led a long and amazing life and had so much love around him. Tom represented strength, hope and why doing the right thing is important. Right now, that’s what we are all doing. We’re following a set of rules where we’re minimising our social contact, wearing face coverings and regularly sanitising our hands. These simple rules still matter so much. I know it may seem never ending at times, but we just have to get on with it. It doesn’t feel like it right now but one day all of this will be a distant memory.

Most of my friends have had their first dose of the vaccine and the ones who are waiting have just turned 60 or are around that age. Everyone I know is keen to get vaccinated because, long term, it’s our answer to ending the pandemic. While the vaccination programme continues, the simple advice to follow is all around us. ‘Stay at home’ and ‘hands, face, space’ do work. That’s reflected in the numbers. Infections and hospital admissions are falling and that’s because of the measures in place.

We have to sit tight and do what we need to do, until we can move forwards. I’m not worried about another peak because we are heading in the right direction. We just have to make sure we have all bases covered so that the R number comes down, the NHS can manage better and we can start moving out of lockdown.

Every generation has been impacted by Covid either from the virus directly or through the lockdown effects. It’s traumatic. That’s why it’s so vital to keep talking to one another. Do the small things that make you happy. The other day, my 18-year-old grandchild, Ellie was feeling a bit down so she got herself ready and all wrapped up and went for a walk down into the village. She took some beautiful wintery photos, got some fresh air and just felt so much better. She was full of conversation and very lively when she got back home – that bit of fresh air just lifted her.

I know with the bad weather, the days can sometimes drag but I’m always thinking of something to do, whether that’s rearranging my house plants that I keep buying or getting lost in a good book. I have just finished The Girl Who Played with Fire -  it was such a wonderful read.

I cannot wait to wake up in the morning, get dressed and go wherever I want with whoever I want. I don’t think we’ll ever take that for granted again. The pandemic has taught me to value life’s simplicities so much more. You realise how precious your loved ones are to you. It’s things like popping into your neighbour’s home for a cup of tea and a biscuit. In our street we all love a bit of chat and, in normal times, we would be in and out each other’s homes. I can’t wait to do that again.”

11.02.21

“The vaccination programme is going well but I am still concerned that we think this is our instant pass out of lockdown. It’s not.”

“We’re a month into the third lockdown now and I won’t lie, I have good and bad days. Like a lot of people, I am a very sociable person, and I can’t help but think when will it all end? But the news of the infection rate falling and hospital admissions going down gives me a reason to remain upbeat because I know the rules are working.

I’m proud of the North East. We have all knuckled down and despite the curveballs of the new Covid variants, people across the region are continuing to do their bit to slow the spread. When I’ve spoken to all my family and friends, I know how hard everyone is trying. We just need to keep at it. We’re doing well but any carelessness or complacency right now would take us right back to the beginning, which none of us wants.

It was my 80th last week and I did feel a bit sad that I couldn’t celebrate how I planned to but it is what it is, isn’t it? The vaccination programme is going well but I am still concerned that we think this is our instant pass out of lockdown. It’s not. It’s the rules and consistently following them that’s important - that’s what we need to focus on.

I know the government is going to announce their plans for coming out of lockdown in a couple of weeks. I think we need to come out of it slowly and cautiously and at the right time. Everything must be based on timing and how much the virus is spreading. We want to avoid another lockdown at all costs which is why patience is key right now.

While we’re making gradual progress in getting the virus under control, I still think we need to remember how important social distancing has been to enable us to do this. I know people are wondering if they can book a summer holiday but, right now, I wouldn’t want to travel to another part of the North East, never mind abroad. I just think the risks are too high. I think staycations are the best option this year.

My friend called me last week. She had a routine appointment at the hospital recently and she said the lines of hospital trolleys with people on them waiting to be treated were upsetting to see. It just makes me feel angry when I see people sharing photos of empty hospital corridors on social media saying that Covid is a hoax. I think social media companies should be taking more responsibility and clamping down on the sharing of false information.

I know mentally we are so tired of lockdown and we just want to be free to do as we please again. We want to see people and go places again but we must keep going and keep following the rules. We need to do it the right way, so it’s the last time we do this. Let’s beat the virus once and for all.

If there’s one thing we can all take from this, it’s the importance of kindness. Kindness is the best quality you can have, and it doesn’t cost a penny. I think we’ve all realised that.” 

04.02.21

“On bad days - we all have them - I try to sit quietly and think of all my blessings. I am safe, warm and have a roof over my head. We’re doing a great job and we can’t slack now. Let’s keep going.”

We spoke to Brenda Naisby this week, an 80-year-old grandma from Washington, to find out why she’s sticking to the rules, her thoughts on the local vaccination efforts and how she’s celebrating a milestone birthday in lockdown.

“I’ve recently been appointed to the Board of Directors at Gentoo, representing tenants, so I’ve been busy Zoom-ing this week - I’ve had a lot of meetings. I don’t mind though; it’s keeping my mind busy which is important to do right now.

I’ve also been spending time with my granddaughter, who is part of my support bubble, and teaching her how to sew. It’s been lovely actually; I’m a keen sewer myself and she’s been wanting to make her own summer crop top so I’ve shown her how to cut the pattern and I’m now teaching her how to stitch. It’s the little things like that which are helping me to keep going throughout all of this. I know we’ll come out the other end, so I am cherishing these special moments.

It’s clear we’re making a huge effort in consistently sticking to lockdown rules but we can’t stop now, it’s more important than ever to wear your mask, wash your hands and minimise your physical contact with people as much as possible. I know how difficult this is but just keep in touch with people through other means. My friends are often texting and ringing and sometimes my neighbour comes to my gate for a few minutes chat, a safe distance away. Just be sensible.

I think the biggest worry right now is the news that the UK variant can be up to 30% more deadly, especially given the number of symptomless people. I spoke to my friend the other day and she and her husband have tested positive. Her husband, five days on, still has no symptoms. It’s frightening.

No wonder it spreads so easily as people simply don’t know they have it. That’s why you must act like you have the virus. We need to stick to the rules - mask wearing, washing hands, social distancing - that’s the only way we’re going to get the R rate down. I was born during the war and I think if my parents could bring up a family during that, we can do this.

The North East response to getting everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible is also making me feel positive about the future. The combined efforts of the NHS and North East Councils are paying off as more and more of us are vaccinated. I’m pleased I’ve now had the first dose of the vaccine but I know I can’t act as I did in a pre-Covid life. I could still easily pick up the virus and pass it on without knowing which is why I am being as careful as possible.

I was 80 this week and usually, I would have enjoyed a day full of celebrations, including a big birthday lunch. I would have had my neighbours round too for a buffet and drinks and met up with my girlfriends at the weekend to celebrate. It’s sad that I can’t do that but my daughter, who’s in my support bubble, put together a small buffet at hers which meant just as much.

On bad days - we all have them - I try to sit quietly and think of all my blessings. I am safe, warm and have a roof over my head. We’re doing a great job and we can’t slack now. Let’s keep going.”

29.01.21

“God bless our hospital and healthcare staff. How they are coping with this day in day out is beyond me - they’re doing such a great job.”

We caught up with Brenda Naisby, a 79-year-old grandma from Washington in Sunderland who has just received her first Covid vaccine.

Here she explains how she’s feeling during lockdown and the things she’s been doing to stay upbeat while reinforcing the importance of sticking to the rules.

“I received the first dose of the Covid vaccine last week, which I’m really happy about. I got it down at the local primary care centre and everything ran smoothly; I was super impressed with the organisation of it all. The needle was the tiniest of pricks and I was in and out quickly. It’s definitely worth getting as it takes us one step closer to getting out of this pandemic.

I’m proud of the North East’s response to the vaccination roll out. We’re leading the way in the fight against this awful virus and the joint local effort between the councils and the NHS has been phenomenal. Just because I’ve received the first dose of the vaccine though, my life hasn’t changed.

I still realise how important it is to stick to the rules until we are all fully vaccinated. We still must act like we have the virus and keep any social contact to a minimum, wear our masks wherever we go and regularly sanitise our hands. Given that many people can be symptomless you just don’t know who has it so you have to do everything you can to minimise the spread of the virus.

The UK’s death rate is nearly at 100,000. It’s frightening. God bless our hospital and healthcare staff. How they are coping with this day in day out is beyond me - they’re doing such a great job. We owe it to them to do our bit and follow the rules, sticking to the stay-at-home order where possible.

I realise how monotonous lockdown can become so that’s why it’s important to stay occupied. I’m in a support bubble with my daughter and grandchildren who live a short walk away from me and we’ve decided to subscribe to Hello Fresh which deliveries fresh ingredients and new recipes to your door each week. It means I can pop down on an evening, help prepare and eat a nutritious meal and enjoy the company of those I love too.

I am also watching a few new programmes on the TV. I am loving The Great Pottery Throw Down and also Winter Watch where I’m learning lots of things I didn’t know about UK wildlife. I sometimes pop onto my Facebook too. Someone had shared some of the cutest photos of companionship between dogs and cats the other day - that gave me some light relief and made me smile .

I know a winter lockdown is tough especially the dark miserable days but it makes me appreciate the sunshine. If I woke up tomorrow and could jump on a plane, I would head to my favourite Caribbean island, Aruba with my daughter and grandkids. I also can’t wait to dine in a nice fancy restaurant and enjoy a top-notch steak with all the trimmings. I know I’ll get to do that again one day, it’s just a matter of time.

21.01.21

“I feel positive and hopeful for the future. Every person who sticks to the rules and every person who receives the vaccine gets us one step closer to normality.”

We spoke to 79-year-old Brenda Naisby, a grandma from Washington in Sunderland who has formed a support bubble with her daughter and grandchildren who live near her. This week she tells us how she is adjusting to lockdown three and the changes everyone must make to their daily behaviours to help the region beat the virus.

“Since the first lockdown, I’ve made an effort to consistently stick to the rules. I only mix with my support bubble and when lockdown three came into force, I reduced essential supermarket trips from twice a week to just once a week. I walk to the supermarket and back home again, putting on my mask as soon as I step foot outside my home and I don’t remove it until I am safely back indoors. I also go early when it’s quiet.

I think at a time like this, where Covid cases are higher than ever and hospitals are stretched, it’s wise to act like you’ve already got the virus. The isolation is tough mentally. I love seeing my friends and we used to do everything together and although I get to spend a couple of evenings at my daughter’s where I have my tea and enjoy some company, I miss going out and about and doing different things with different people.

That’s why it’s important to occupy your mind or body with something else - set yourself a challenge or take up a new hobby. I have with quilting. I was so pleased with my first quilting attempt - I made myself a gorgeous quilted iPad cover. I am now moving onto making a quilted shopping bag. It requires a great deal of concentration but it’s great to learn this new skill, something I would never have done before Covid.

Exercise wise, I miss my line dancing classes with the girls so a few times a week I pop a bit of Willie Nelson (country music star) on Spotify and line dance. It helps to keep my spirits up and focus on the future when we are free of lockdowns.

I know things seem dire but it’s times like these that remind us of what we are grateful for and the simple freedoms that we take for granted. It’s important to focus on this and realise that the vaccine is here now and we’re heading towards the final hurdle.

However, before the vaccine can do its job in protecting people, that responsibility lies with us. We must continue to follow the rules. Wash our hands wherever we go, wear our masks at all times and ensure we minimise social contact as much as possible.

The end is nearly in sight but for us to reach it, sticking to the rules and breaking the social contact chain that helps Covid to thrive is more important than ever. Because I’m desperate, like everyone else, for life to return to normal, I’m more determined than ever to hang on in there, stick to the rules and get us out of this a lot quicker.

I can’t wait to see that day where we can all wake up in the morning and do whatever we feel like doing - whether that’s browsing the shops, going to the gym or for a swim or going out for some drinks with a group of friends.

If we genuinely want these things in our life again, then we must follow the rules. The message is simple. Stay at home. Only go out if you need to. Stay local. In my younger years, I used to be a keen rambler and the last bit of the walk was always the hardest. It’s a bit like where we’re at with the pandemic now. We’re nearly there, we’re at the toughest point, we just have to keep going.”

06.01.2021

“Someone might feel absolutely fine but they don’t know they are carriers of the virus. This is why the measures exist. Social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing - they’re in place to protect you.”

We caught up with Brenda Naisby, a 79-year-old grandma who lives in Washington, Sunderland. We discussed how she felt about the new lockdown, the emergence of the new Coronavirus strain and how she was coping with the restrictions. Brenda shared her thoughts on how we can all come together as a region and beat this virus by sticking to the rules.

“I feel anxious if I’m honest - I miss my days with my girlfriends but I’m so grateful that support bubbles are still in place. Being able to see my daughter and grandchildren who live with her is my lifeline.

Although any news of a lockdown is not good news, I believe it’s so important that we knuckle down to prevent it lasting longer than it needs to. I will follow the rules and stick to them religiously like I have been doing. Yes, it feels like an eternity but there’s light at the end of this terrible tunnel - we can’t give up now.

The news that on average one in 50 people in England now have Covid-19 must be our wake-up call. This shows just how fast the new strain of the virus is spreading. It’s incredibly easy to catch now - more than it ever has been before - and I am being very careful. I’ll only go shopping for food and essentials once a week and I ensure that I wear my mask, sanitise my hands and wipe down all food and packaging once I’m home. It’s become part of my routine.

Lockdown is tough and I know we’ve all lived under some form of lockdown for nearly a year now. Thank goodness for video technology, it really is such a wonderful thing. Hopefully, this is the last leg so sticking to the rules, washing hands, keeping a two-metre distance and wearing a mask are vital.

You’re never too old to take up a hobby and, already a keen sewer and knitter, I have decided to have a go at quilting. It’s a lot to get my head around but I am looking forward to the challenge. That’s the thing about lockdown, especially a winter one when the days are cold, dark and it’s forever raining, it’s important to keep your mind and body active.

The fact that 1 in 3 people who have Covid don’t have symptoms terrifies me if I’m honest. Someone might feel absolutely fine but they don’t know they are carriers. This is why the measures exist. Social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing - they’re in place to protect you.

It’s been nearly a year since the pandemic started and mental health is a huge worry especially, I think, for young people. You know what teenagers are like - it’s either agony or ecstasy in terms of emotions, but Covid-19 has prevented them from living a normal life. Everything from school or college to hanging out at the beach or cinema with friends – it just can’t happen right now.

My grandchildren are at university and they’re struggling but I always tell them to speak to me or their mam about their feelings and talk through their emotions. That’s the best way. In terms of me personally, if I’m not having a good day, I just channel my thoughts to stop dwelling on the negatives that surround me and focus on the positives as much as possible.

One positive of course is the vaccine which I am extremely happy about. I know a few people who have received it already, including three neighbours. I cannot wait for mine. Unless you can’t have the vaccine for medical reasons, I think everyone should get it.

Until the majority of people are vaccinated, the key to beating the virus is testing and self-isolating to stop the spread. If you get a negative test then you’ve only lost a few minutes of your time. That’s nothing compared to being positive and infecting someone who could then lose their life. Please, let’s follow the rules and save lives.”

24.12.2020

“The only way we are going to get back to normal quicker is by sticking to the rules. The vaccine is here - which is great news - but there’s still a way to go before it does its job.”

We caught up with Brenda Naisby, a 79-year-old grandma who lives in Washington, Sunderland. We discussed how she’s finding living through a pandemic and the highs and lows of day-to-day life as well as her plans for a Covid-shaped Christmas.

“It’s been a busy week, I must say. I’m part of a new local Covid campaign thanking the people of the North East for all they’re doing to slow the spread. I wanted to get involved so I could say thank you and help raise awareness about the importance of following the guidelines, so you might recognise me as I’ve been on the television, radio and in the newspapers this week too.

I’ve been talking about how tough it is to keep following the rules but why we must do it. When reporters were interviewing me, it was on the phone or via Zoom. It was very exciting, but the campaign is also vital to explain why we need to keep doing what we’re doing. 

I am a member of Gentoo’s Community Engagement Forum too so I’ve had a couple of meetings this week. We all sat two metres apart, sanitised our hands before and after and wore our mask for the duration of the meeting. The room was also cleansed before and after use, so I felt completely safe.

I am so grateful that I have my support bubble with my daughter and my grandchildren who live with her. It means we can spend Christmas together. We particularly enjoy Christmas Eve, and my daughter buys us all matching pyjamas. We get together to watch festive films and enjoy nibbles - it’s such a wonderful night. I think I get more excited about Christmas Eve than I do about Christmas Day!

I know we’re all desperate for a bit of normality - and it’s easy to get carried away with the nostalgia of Christmas - but I do worry about the impact that mixing together will have as we head into 2021.

I’m concerned people will forget about the guidelines during Christmas week and they’ll hug, kiss and have lots of physical contact. I sound like a scrooge I know but I don’t want to be back to square one. We’ve come so far.

The only way we’re going to get back to normal quicker is by sticking to the rules. The vaccine is here - which is great news - but there’s still a way to go before it does its job. That’s why, until then, we must wear our masks, regularly sanitise our hands and keep our distance. There are some cracking festive masks out there - I love the sparkly diamante ones - so I would urge people to invest in one and celebrate a safe and healthy Christmas. If we all keep doing our bit, hopefully this will be the last time we have to celebrate the festive season like this. Here’s to a brighter and healthier 2021.

18.12.2020

“I was struggling by the end of the 12 weeks. I just wanted to hug and hold my daughter and my grandchildren. It was really getting to me.”

Brenda is approaching her 80th birthday and is from Washington in Sunderland, where she lives alone. She’s in a support bubble with her daughter and grandchildren, who live nearby. 

When the lockdown was first announced in March, Brenda had to shield for 12 weeks - those over 70 are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 and catching the virus could prove fatal. 

Here she shares how the pandemic has affected her life, how she’s been coping with living alone and why she’s so grateful for her family. 

“It’s just been so hard. When the Government first announced that everything was closing and we had to stay indoors, I panicked. How could I not see my friends? Not pop over to my daughter’s house who lives 10 minutes down the road to see the grandkids? I love getting out and about nipping to the shops, having a coffee with my friends. That’s what life is all about for me.

Covid has made me appreciate what I’ve got in life and my freedom to do as I please, and when. Because I live alone, I didn’t see anyone for 12 weeks - only my daughter and the grandkids at the bottom of my path after they left my shopping for me. 

I was struggling by the end of the first lockdown. I just wanted to hug and hold my daughter and my grandchildren. But I think it’s taught me, and plenty of people, to be grateful for having family in your life who are looking out for you. I worry about people who have no one and are completely cut off from the world. 

At least now I have been able to form a support bubble with my family. It has been a lifeline. I can enjoy precious family time with those I love most while following social distancing rules and staying safe.

I think the NHS workers have been absolute superstars throughout, what they have done and continue to do is wonderful. They have put their lives on the line for us - they’ve held the hands of dying people, comforting them in their final moments when family and friends have been unable to. 

The restrictions are tough, but we must stick with it, it’s the only way to get back to normal, quicker. I can’t wait to meet up with my friends for coffee and cake. I look forward to those days again because we will get there. We’ll do this. We’ll beat the virus.

We just have to keep sticking to the rules of washing our hands, wearing a mask and social distancing. If we all do that and all do our bit, we'll get out of this quicker. Community is really important to the North East; we all know that. So, let’s keep showing that community spirit, stick to the guidelines for a little bit longer, get through this and live freely again.” 

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