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Meet Carol. She’s 53 and lives with her husband and son. Carol works in the pharmacy at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle where she sees first-hand the effects of Covid.

Carol Duncan

11.03.21

Carol's Diary

Meet Carol. As well as working in the pharmacy at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, she’s a wife, mum and asthma sufferer.

Working at the hospital, she sees first-hand how hard NHS staff are working to #BeatCovidNE. She wants to thank everyone for all they’ve done to slow the spread of the virus, but says we have to keep going to protect our NHS as we ease out of lockdown. 

Watch Carol’s diary and find out more about her story.

25.03.21

“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.”

“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.”

18.03.21

“We must remember that the number of people in hospital with Covid is still very high in comparison to the first wave. As we follow the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s important that we don’t jump the gun.”

“With the schools being back life feels a bit more normal now. Of course, things aren’t the same. My son has to wear a mask in the classroom and the school’s strict Covid rules are still in place.

I’m also testing him twice a week at home with those lateral flow tests. I know the test isn’t the nicest thing to do but it’s so important. Not only does it help keep children in the classroom, but it also helps to reduce the spread of Covid. If one week my son tests positive, I know that by keeping him home for 10 days I am protecting lives. I am doing my bit for our local community and preventing someone from potentially needing hospital treatment.

It only takes five minutes to do the tests and doing them reassures me that he’s not carrying Covid. Through regular testing, I’m protecting his friends, his teachers and their families. We are doing our bit to break the chain in transmission. He's not too fussed about the mask wearing as long as it means he’s back in school, learning and being with his mates. They’ve missed out on so much.

With the next stage of lockdown seeing the return of outdoor organised sports and meeting as a group of six outdoors, it’s easy to let our guard down. If you and five friends do meet for a walk along the coast or around your local park please make sure that you don’t just pop back to one of their houses or vice versa for a cuppa. Mixing indoors is still not safe.

By following the rules, you’re protecting the NHS. Your actions are saving lives. We must remember that the number of people in hospital with Covid is still very high in comparison to the first wave. As we follow the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s important that we don’t jump the gun. The death rate has fallen and while the vaccine is starting to have an impact, the main reason for this is because we’re sticking to the rules.

The government has said all along that we need to be driven by the data, not by dates and I agree with that. The best way to ensure we remain on the path to normality is by sticking to the rules as any regional spike in infections might set us back a step which, at this stage, we desperately don’t want.

Remember what the Prime Minister said; the whole point of the roadmap is that it’s cautious but irreversible. If we want to keep moving forwards, we need to accept that regular hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing has to be part of our everyday lives.”

11.03.21

“I have learnt that I have more determination and mental strength than I ever thought possible. When all this is finally over, we’ll all reflect and realise just how vital our efforts were in following the rules.”

“I feel like spring is in the air and this year more than ever it does feel like a new beginning. For the first time in a long time, I can spend some time with my mam. She has formed a support bubble with my sister so I don’t get to see her. It’s been so tough.

Since the restrictions have relaxed a little, I’ve met her in the park local to us, when the weather’s been ok. Although we’ve both had the first dose of the vaccine, we’re still mindful of the message ‘hands, face, space.’ We take a flask of tea, sit a safe distance away from each other and watch the world go by as we chat. It’s made such a difference to both of us and our mental health. I’ve missed her loads.

As lockdown starts to slowly relax, it’s easy to get carried away thinking Covid doesn’t pose a threat to life anymore but that’s not the case. Although it’s a relief that the NHS threat level has been reduced from level 5 to level 4, it doesn’t mean hospitals are no longer under pressure. The NHS is still hard at work caring for all those with Covid as well as those without. This is why keeping our social contact to a minimum, wearing a mask in public places and regularly washing our hands remains vital.

The roadmap has been laid out and we must follow that to ensure we continue unlocking. ‘Stay at home’ is still the key rule despite the schools returning and being able to enjoy a bite to eat or coffee with a friend in the park. It’s not the opportunity to spend as much time away from home as possible. Please do stay at home that little bit longer.

It’s wonderful that over 97% of people in the eligible categories in the North East have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine. I am so proud of those who are listening to the rules and the advice around vaccination. It’s so important that everyone who is able to have the vaccine within all communities receives it.

By keeping our nerve and following the rules, we are increasing our chances of a summer where we can go to a festival or a wedding and enjoy life in the way we did before Covid hit. It’s a big test of resilience now and our character. I have learnt that I have more determination and mental strength than I ever thought possible. When all this is finally over, we’ll all reflect and realise just how vital our efforts were in following the rules. Thank you for all that you’re doing - it’s not gone unnoticed.”

04.03.21

“I agree with the approach of a slow and steady unlocking. The last thing we want is for everything to open at once – schools, pubs and shops – and then to go back into lockdown again.”

“Taking things week by week helps me to cope with the lockdown. I don’t think too far ahead, I simply focus on the here and now. I keep reminding myself why we’re all doing this. It’s to protect lives, ensure our NHS can care for people when they need it and lead us back to normality.

The roadmap out of lockdown has now been set out by the government. The ‘stay at home’ message and the rules of wearing masks, sanitising hands and minimising all social contact are working. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be in a position where we’re able to start opening up society again.

I agree with the approach of a slow and steady unlocking. The last thing we want is for everything to open at once - schools, pubs and shops - and then to go back into lockdown again. That keeps me motivated too - I don’t want to go back to the start again.

It won’t be long now until I can sit down and enjoy a coffee on a park bench with one of my close friends. We must stay local to our home to do this though. As I live in Newcastle I wouldn’t for instance travel to Sunderland to meet a friend. And while meeting up, it’s still important to be mindful of ‘hands, face and space’.

I know my great-nephews are excited about organised outdoor sports again - they’re football mad. It’ll be great to see young people back in education and also taking part in the sports that they’re so passionate about.

I think the UK will be remembered for how we supported the creation of not just one vaccine for Covid but several, as well as our delivery of a strong and successful vaccination programme. My husband has had the vaccine now too and soon all adults will have been offered their first dose. It’s incredible.

While it’s easy to think that the vaccine is here and all our problems are solved, we must remember the reality of the situation. While hospital admissions are falling, and the NHS is managing a lot better than it was two months ago, there are still lot of  people in hospital suffering from Covid. The infection rate, although going down, is still high. This is why the route out of lockdown must be cautious.

Although many people I know have now had their first dose, they realise that this doesn’t change their everyday behaviour - we still have to follow the rules. It’s the rules that are saving lives. Please continue to minimise social contact, wear a mask and sanitise your hands regularly. By doing so, we can help ensure the roadmap out of lockdown stays on track. We can’t let the virus win.”

25.02.21

“It’s only natural to think about bending the rules but remember why we’re doing this. It’s to keep people safe and so we don’t have to go through a complete lockdown again if we can help it. We can all do our bit by following the rules.”

“I took some annual leave last week - it worked out well weather-wise as we’ve enjoyed warmer temperatures and lots of local dog walks. We’ve also recently started house hunting, something we’ve been talking about for a while now. We’ve seen a handful of houses and the experience has been mostly the same as last time we moved home aside from one key difference - we’ve followed the ‘hands, face, space’ rule to the letter.

We’ve kept our masks on at all times during viewings, as have the homeowners, and ensured we’ve stayed two metres apart from occupants. We’ve also removed our shoes before each visit and sanitised our hands before, during and after viewings. They are simple measures but so important in reducing the spread of Covid.

I do think the rules are working as we’re in a strong position right now. We’ve vaccinated over 16 million people which is a fantastic achievement. Despite the vaccination programme, I do think the social distancing rules around ‘hands, face, space’ should remain.

We should continue to wear masks, sanitise our hands and keep two metres apart in public places wherever possible. Social distancing works. We’re proving this week by week as the figures are continuing to fall and hospital admissions are slowing. However, we must realise that infection rates are still comparatively high. Social distancing is the only proven way to get infection rates down and the virus under control.

By keeping the rules in place long term, it means vital sectors within society can reopen. For example, schools can safely open if we all follow the guidance. Non-essential shops can reopen if we continue to work hard at getting the numbers down. If we stick to the rules, we will get there. We just need to persevere.

I am proud of people in the North East for all they’ve done so far to slow the spread. In the main, we have all been so resilient. We’ve lived under restrictions for a long time now - whether it’s tier 3, tier 4 or total lockdown  - but we’ve powered through. It’s only natural to think about bending the rules but remember why we’re doing this. It’s to keep people safe and so we don’t have to go through a complete lockdown again if we can help it. We can all do our bit by following the rules.

At work, we’re ploughing on. We’re optimistic that we’re getting the virus under control. We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point. I feel so proud to work for the NHS - that’s why I’m involved in this campaign. We’re getting across a vital message. I do realise how tired and bored we’re becoming of lockdown, but we are edging closer to some form of normality. Let’s keep going.”

18.02.21

“The simple message of ‘stay at home’ is working. The patience, hard work and commitment of everyone across the North East has been wonderful. The priority now is to keep going.”

“It’s good news that infection rates and hospital admissions are continuing to fall and the pressure on hospitals is slowly starting to ease. That proves the effectiveness of the social distancing rules in place and why adherence to the message ‘hands, face, space’ is vital.

The simple message of ‘stay at home’ is working. It’s giving much-needed time for the vaccination programme to continue powering ahead. The patience, hard work and commitment of everyone across the North East has been wonderful. The priority now is to keep going.

You probably know several people who’ve been vaccinated, especially those who are clinically vulnerable. I am clinically vulnerable with my asthma and although I’m relieved that I’ve had the first dose I know that it’s still important to avoid mixing with different people.

I still follow the strict social distancing rules at work and, away from the hospital, I am careful about where I go and what I do. I try to go to the supermarket at quieter times and I make sure I wear my mask when I’m around others , even when out for a walk. I know we don’t have to but I feel safer doing so and it reminds me to keep my guard up.

It’s really important that members of all communities get the vaccine. Being Asian, I know we’re at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid. Because of this and my health condition, I had no qualms about being vaccinated. I have encouraged members of my wider family to get the vaccine too. My 84-year-old mam recently got her first dose which I’m thankful for. My sister developed Covid in November and was seriously poorly with it so I know she’ll get the vaccine too when invited.

I know it gets mentally tough to keep going through this lockdown, especially with the weather. I do like the snow though and Hugo, our cockapoo, absolutely loves it so we’ve been down to a quiet local field a few times and let him have a run about and play. I have also been doing a couple of home workouts. I never thought it would be something I would do but I’ve found some Zumba style exercise videos on YouTube and I am enjoying it. It reminds me of the Zumba classes that I used to love going to.

It’s really important to look after your mental health right now so please be kind to yourselves and put yourself first. Sometimes this is as simple as running a long hot bath and switching off for a couple of hours. Or you might prefer to get wrapped up and brave the cold for a run to clear your head. There is an end to all this and we’re getting nearer - our hard work is paying off.”

11.02.21

“Social distancing and always keeping ‘hands, face, space’ in your mind so that it informs every decision you make or action you take is crucial."

“I know the weather’s been bad but I’ve been making an effort to get us out of the house, all wrapped up, daily. Even if it’s just to walk the dog around the block for half an hour or so, fresh air and a stretch of the legs can make all the difference right now. I have also been making a few different meals for our tea. I enjoy cooking, it helps me to switch off.

Generally, I am feeling ok. The hospital where I work is still busy and we’re still seeing a high rate of admissions but we’re managing. As well as the hospital staff being so dedicated, resilient, and good at what they do, I also think we’re seeing figures fall because the North East is listening. People are following the rules and realising that minimising social contact is the most effective way to get us out of lockdown as well as wearing masks and sanitising our hands often.

I have a teenage son so the sooner the schools open, the better but only if it’s safe to do so. I think this time around the government is more focused on ensuring that this is (hopefully) the last lockdown so they’re determined to drive down the R-rate as far as possible.

The vaccine programme will eventually show its worth, it just takes time. In the meantime, social distancing and always keeping ‘hands, face, space’ in your mind so that it informs every decision you make or action you take is crucial.

I’m desperate for a summer holiday abroad. Aren’t we all? We need to keep variants of Covid contained though and one of the best ways to do this is through tight controls on travel. As much as I can’t wait to lie on a beach in Tenerife again, we still have work to do to get this virus under control and enable us to live normally alongside it.

My work family has been super-supportive through it all. Despite the weariness kicking in around lockdown, PPE and the other strict logistical measures we must adhere to, they’ve kept me smiling. I have never felt unsafe because we’re so stringent in the measures we follow.

It’s been a tough year for everyone in the NHS but I’m so proud of how we’ve continued to pull together and deliver a high level of care to anyone who needs it. Through it all, everyone has been so kind. And that’s what matters, isn’t it? Being kind to others and, importantly, yourself.

I’ve been watching Gavin and Stacey box sets this week. I have seen every episode at least five times over but I love the show. It makes me laugh and takes my mind off everything. Gavin and Stacey, a pizza from The Clay Oven, our favourite takeaway place, and cuddles with Hugo, our cockapoo - they’re working wonders for my mindset at the moment.

 We’re only human and sometimes it’s ok not to be ok, especially given current circumstances. We’re made of strong stuff though, us North Easterners, so I know we will get through this. Let’s stay positive, stay at home whenever possible, and gradually we’ll work our way out of lockdown.”

04.02.21

“Although the vaccine is fantastic news, it doesn’t mean we are immune to Covid after the first, or even second, dose. We must still keep any social contact to a minimum, wash our hands and wear our masks.”

We spoke to Carol Duncan, a 54-year-old key worker from West Denton in Newcastle to ask how she’s doing this week, how she’s finding lockdown and why we should all continue to stick to the rules this winter.

“It’s been a pretty surreal week. We had a very lovely, albeit small, send off for my father-in-law who recently passed away. In normal times, the church would have been packed followed by a big gathering of his friends and family. While we couldn’t do that, we still managed to give him the funeral he wanted.

The Co-op Funeralcare at Benwell House was amazing and so supportive. We’ve had to sort out a funeral remotely and they’ve handled it so well, so I would like to thank them.

The rules are there for a reason, even for funerals and weddings, because the virus continues to pose a serious threat. While infection rates are going down - and that’s thanks to the majority of people across the region being so vigilant and continuing to follow the rules - hospital admissions are still high. This is why the stay at home message continues to be so vital in getting us out of this.

The rules matter more than ever right now given the new variant may be 30% more deadly. It’s so worrying, isn’t it?

I was relieved to get the vaccine last week because I work on the frontline in the RVI, especially because I have asthma. Although the vaccine is fantastic news, it doesn’t mean we are immune to Covid after the first, or even second, dose. We must still keep any social contact to a minimum, wash our hands and wear our masks - out and about and while at work. That’s the only way we’ll start seeing hospital admissions drop to a manageable enough level so restrictions can start to lift.

Some of my closest friends are due to celebrate some big birthdays in the next couple of months. Normally, we’d arrange a big party or get together but we’ll have to put those plans on hold for now. What matters is our health and the opportunity to do these things in future. That’s why we need to be on our guard now, to try and suppress the virus.

I think the best way to beat the virus is to assume you have it and act like you have. Stay home whenever possible, keep your social distance, wear your mask when at work or at the supermarket – and properly.

By doing this, we can all look forward to a better summer. Me and my friends talk about what we’re going to do when restrictions lift - I am really looking forward to it. We’d meet in town, enjoy a leisurely lunch and, of course, some wine. Let’s not give up now - we’re doing well.”

29.01.21

“The rules couldn’t be more important than they are right now. Stay at home and save lives. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”

We spoke to Carol Duncan this week as we continue through lockdown to find out how she’s feeling, her thoughts on the vaccination roll out and why she’s optimistic about the future.

“I’m feeling ok all things considered. It’s been a sad time generally following the death of my 90-year-old father-in-law, but fond memories have kept me smiling. He lived a long and full life and here at home, we’ve spent the last week or so reminiscing about all the good times we shared with him. I am just so grateful support bubbles have been allowed following the first national lockdown because it meant we saw him every single day in the last year of his life.

I’m currently enjoying some annual leave from work which is much needed as it’s been extremely busy lately. Although the infection rate is falling in the North East, we aren’t seeing that impact yet at the hospital where I work. We are well and truly in the thick of it but we’re coping, and I am confident we will get through it.

I’ve been watching a Netflix series called Pretty Little Liars and it’s one of those where I just can’t stop watching it now because I need to know what happens! Once we’ve finished watching that we’re going to start watching The Serpent - you can’t beat a real-life crime series.

Although the weather has been pretty bad, I have been taking our cockapoo Hugo out for walks around the local fields to get some daily exercise and fresh air. I think it’s important to stay local for exercise and I don’t agree with people travelling via car to exercise or public transport. We’ve recently found a new place to enjoy a long winter’s walk and that’s Throckley Woods. It’s great for Hugo and we’ve been enjoying some nice afternoons out there.

It’s a very simple message, isn’t it? ‘Stay at home’ but I know after a while it becomes more and more difficult to follow. I am missing socialising with friends and family so much and I find myself daydreaming about browsing the shops and meeting whoever I want for a casual lunch and a few drinks. I think if I woke up tomorrow and Covid didn’t exist, I would hop on the first plane to Tenerife with my entire family for some sun, sea and cocktails.

This is why the vaccination roll out is helping me to stay positive as I know we’ll come out of this and normal life will resume. Until then though, we must follow the rules and wear our masks, minimise social contact and sanitise our hands regularly.

It’s great that the North East is leading the way in the vaccine programme. I think the combined effort from local government and the NHS is fantastic. Working in a hospital I get to understand first-hand what’s involved in such a project and how big a task it is. It’s no mean feat to be vaccinating as many people as we are daily but we’re doing it. I feel so proud and it fills me with hope which is what we all need to feel right now.

Although millions have been vaccinated, it’s important to remember that immunity takes time to build following the first dose and everyone needs a second dose before we enjoy any real benefit from the vaccine. Until then, wearing masks, washing our hands and keeping our distance is what is going to keep us safe and reduce community transmission of the virus.

When I read the other day that the UK is reaching nearly 100,000 deaths from Covid, I couldn’t quite believe it. It’s shocking, isn’t it? It just shows you how prevalent the virus is. It’s still out there, it’s still infecting people and, in some cases, making them seriously poorly. The rules couldn’t be more important than they are right now. Stay at home and save lives. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. “

21.01.2021

“I plan to get the vaccine but I’m not relying on that to keep me safe. I know the only way I can stay healthy, especially with my asthma, is to stay home where possible, wash my hands, wear my mask and keep a safe distance from other people .”

We spoke to Carol Duncan, who works at the RVI in Newcastle in the pharmacy. She tells us how the hospital is coping, how she’s adjusting to the third national lockdown and why we must now, more than ever, follow the rules.

“Last week, my 90-year-old father-in-law Jack, who we were in a bubble with, sadly passed away. While he lived a long and full life, we will miss him very much. Organising a funeral during lockdown has been difficult. The process is essentially the same but only 30 people are allowed to attend the church service. Only six people can attend the wake that follows.

Jack had so many friends and lived life to the full, even in his final days. It’s a great shame to not have everyone he knew and all those so fond of him join us to celebrate his life, but I understand why. We must protect people’s lives and the only guaranteed way to do this right now is if we limit social contact.

Given the job I do, I’m still going to work as usual, but things are far from usual. The hospital is very busy not just with treating Covid patients but with the normal winter pressures too. During the first lockdown, many non-urgent NHS services were paused but things are different this time around. We’re still operating as normal but handling the pandemic too.

It’s tough - hospital staff are increasingly stretched - but the main thing is we’re coping. We want to treat as many people as possible, whenever they need it, which is why the rules in place are so important in helping the NHS to keep doing this. Right now, everyone needs to do their bit by staying at home as much as possible, only making essential trips and minimising social contact.

Everyone at work is so relieved about the vaccine but are well aware that we aren’t out of the woods yet. Lots of hospital workers are getting vaccinated so it’s good to know the ball is rolling on that front. Before the vaccine can protect people, we must stick to the rules. By doing this, we are saving lives.

I plan to get the vaccine but I’m not relying on that to keep me safe. I know the only way I can stay safe, especially with my asthma, is to keep doing what I am doing which is sanitising my hands regularly, wearing my mask and remaining two metres apart from people as much as possible. The rules are our only protection from Covid right now.

When I leave the house now, I put my mask on as soon as I’m in the car and it stays on until I am home again, whether that’s after a supermarket trip or a shift at work. We mostly do online shopping but every few days we pop to the nearest shop to buy bread and milk. Other than that, we are staying at home. It’s fair to say that we see our Amazon delivery driver quite regularly as I try to order online whenever possible.

I also ensure I only go from A to B and travelling is kept to only essential trips like going to work. As soon as this is all over, the first thing I’ll do is go out for a slap-up meal, a few drinks and visit the cinema too. I miss going to the cinema so much, but I know that day will come again. We just have to stay at home, ensure social contact is minimised and wear our masks and wash our hands wherever we go. If we do that, we will get through this.”

14.01.21

“I have every faith that we’ll get on top of this virus again and see the easing of restrictions. Until then though, staying at home, washing hands regularly, wearing a face covering and remaining two metres apart from people is paramount.”

We caught up with Carol Duncan, who works in the pharmacy at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. We discussed her thoughts on lockdown three and how it impacts her life. Carol explained why sticking to rules matters more than ever now and why the North East needs to pull together to beat Covid.

“Like many people working in healthcare, lockdown three is sadly no surprise. I was expecting it because the hospital I work in has been busy, treating a rising number of Covid patients. Even the smallest amount of social mixing, as we had on Christmas Day, provides the perfect breeding ground for Covid.

Washing hands, wearing masks and keeping our distance are such simple but important steps to follow. In my experience, from what I have witnessed at work and when in supermarkets or out walking the dog, people are following the rules, keeping their distance and wearing a face covering.

It’s so difficult to keep going with it all, especially not mixing socially as that’s what life is all about really, isn’t it? But the only way we will get back to living normally, and to the full, is to follow the rules. By doing this, we can get the virus back under control, slow the spread of it and give precious time to the vaccination programme roll out so the vaccine can work its magic.

The new Coronavirus strain is even more infectious than the original one which is why social distancing measures if followed properly, are the key to getting us out of this. I think we understand and accept that all viruses mutate but it’s the infectiousness of Covid. It spreads like no other virus and can be deadly. That’s the difference.

I am dreaming of the day I meet all my friends in our favourite bar or go on holiday with my family. It doesn’t seem that far off now but to get there I know we must continue doing what we’re doing and not let our guard down. This winter we must try and stay home when we can, sanitise hands, wear our masks in all public places and keep that two-metre distance.

1 in 3 people who have Covid do so without knowing which makes minimum social contact even more important. You don’t have to be displaying any symptoms at all, but you could carry the virus and pass that on to someone else who may become seriously ill from it.

While the vaccine is the golden ticket, it will only work if people get vaccinated and receive both doses. The take-up so far has been great but we have so much more work to do. I will get vaccinated as soon as it’s made available to me and I will ensure my family is vaccinated too. Before the vaccine can do its job though, the key to beating the virus is testing and self-isolation. If you do test positive for the virus, the single most important action you can take is to self-isolate. It’s only for 10 days. By doing so, you are saving lives.

I do think this lockdown is the beginning of the end, and probably the toughest hurdle we need to overcome. If we work together, stay strong, and follow the rules each and every day, we will come out of it sooner. I have every faith that we’ll get on top of this virus again and see the easing of restrictions. Until then though, staying at home, washing hands regularly, wearing a face covering and remaining two metres apart from people is paramount.”

24.12.2020

“Not self-isolating puts the lives of your loved ones at risk. I would hate to pass Covid on to someone more vulnerable than me. Enjoy Christmas but stick to the rules - it’s the only way to get out of this.”

We caught up with Carol Duncan, who works in the pharmacy at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. We discussed how she’s finding living through the pandemic and the highs and lows of day-to-day life as well as her plans for a Covid-shaped Christmas.

“I’ve had a few days off, so I’ve enjoyed walking my dog Hugo, finishing my Christmas shopping and it’s been my husband’s birthday too. We usually go out for a big meal to celebrate but we can’t do that this year, so we had a takeaway and a few drinks in the house. It was nice but it still felt a bit strange not celebrating with our friends and family like we usually do.

My 90-year-old father-in-law recently had pneumonia and was quite poorly in hospital. Now that he’s back home, we’ve been ensuring he’s ok too. He lives alone and we’re in a support bubble with him. It was really scary when he was in hospital because we were worried about Covid. Fortunately, he’s stayed Covid-free.

When shopping, I have felt a bit uncomfortable at times with people not socially  distancing and places being crowded. I know it’s difficult to remain two metres apart, but it did set my nerves on edge. I  just have to remind myself that I wear my mask properly, I sanitise my hands and I always try to keep my distance.

At work, wearing a mask for eight long hours really is a challenge. I have asthma and I think that makes it a bit worse. It’s tough but worth it as I know it’s important.

We must remain aware of the threat Covid presents over Christmas. This is why I’m involved in the North East campaign thanking people for all they are doing and reminding them to stay vigilant. It’s vital to get the message out there that the invisible danger to life is still present, it’s still around us.

We need to wear masks, wash hands and minimise physical contact. I saw my face on an advert this week promoting this message - that made me smile!’

If some of us bend the rules this Christmas, I would really worry about the impact on hospital admissions in January and February. It could lead to a third wave and another lockdown. We just need to stick with it and think about the long-term goal - getting back to normal, quicker.

We’re having a quiet Christmas this year. It’ll just be me, my husband, my son and my father-in-law. One of my friends usually hosts a big Christmas party but obviously, they can’t this year. We’re going to do it over Zoom in our separate houses instead - it’s better than nothing and we still get to spend the night together, laughing and joking.

It’s often seen as a negative action, but self-isolation is key to beating the virus. If you do feel under the weather this Christmas, please do self-isolate and get a test. It’s the only way to keep infection rates down and reduce Covid hospital admissions. If you do test positive, you only have to isolate for 10 days. It’s tough but doable.

Not self-isolating puts the lives of your loved ones at risk. I would hate to pass it on to someone more vulnerable than me, like my father-in-law. Enjoy Christmas but stick to the rules - it’s the only way to get out of this.”

18.12.2020

“Having asthma is worrying. I know I’m higher risk because of it, and you walk around with that fear at the back of your mind. What if you caught Covid and your lungs couldn’t function properly and you had a massive asthma attack? The thought scares me.”

Carol Duncan is a 54-year-old NHS worker based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne. She’s part of the hospital’s pharmacy team, in her role as a technical assistant officer.

Carol is married to John and has a teenage son, Callum, and is also mam to Hugo, a one-year-old Cockapoo. Of Indian descent and living with asthma, Carol is at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if she caught Covid-19.

Here she shares how Covid-19 and its tough restrictions are affecting her life.

“Working in Newcastle’s main hospital, I see just how serious the Covid-19 pandemic is on a daily basis. There’s no doubt that at times it’s been really hard for the team at the hospital, but we’ve all pulled together in caring for every single person both on the Covid wards and non-Covid units too. The vaccine is on the horizon which gives us all hope but mass immunisation isn’t here yet. So we all have to keep doing our bit by continuing to socially distance, wear a mask and wash our hands.

While I see the impact on the NHS day-in, day-out and understand how it affects all kinds of people, it’s also completely changed what I do and who I see outside of work.

Before Covid came along, all my family would get together each week at my sister and brother-in-law’s home - from babies to elderly grandparents as well as nieces, nephews, aunties, uncles and cousins. We all have busy lives but every Sunday we would enjoy a meal, chat, play a few games, and just be with one another, including the dogs!

I really do miss it and miss seeing everyone. I last saw the youngest member of our family when he was 4 months old. He has just turned one and I have still not spent any time with him – he’s changed so much. It’s tough.

Having asthma is worrying. I know I’m higher risk because of it, and you walk around with that fear at the back of your mind. What if you caught Covid and your lungs couldn’t function properly and you had a massive asthma attack? The thought scares me.

I just feel so grateful for my work family – they’re there on the bad days, the really bad days, and a quick cuppa with someone (even if at the other end of the table in the tearoom while wearing a mask) really does make all the difference. They’ve supported me so much, we’ve all supported each other, and I’m thankful for that.

With Christmas coming, it’s going to be strange this year. I know the rules are different - three households can mix - but with being a big family there are just too many of us. We usually all get together at my sister’s house, but we can’t do that this year. So it will be John, Callum and me and my father-in-law - two households. I’d also hate to put my mam in danger, she’s in her 80s and hasn’t been anywhere since March. She’ll be with my sister. We are all being cautious.

The situation is so surreal, isn’t it? But we have to keep sticking to the rules so that we can get back to normal and see our families and friends again. It’s hard, I know, but we need to stick together, no matter what we do or who we are. We can do it – us Geordies are made of strong stuff.”

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