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Meet Dave, a 55 year-old Clinical Care Manager with the North East Ambulance Service who lives with his partner.

Dave Langley

Dave's Diary

Working for the Ambulance Service, Dave sees first hand just how devastating Covid-19 is. 

He and his partner are both key workers. They have a big family and it’s been difficult balancing supporting them while working and trying to keep everyone safe.

Dave wants to thank local people for doing their bit and urges everyone to keep following the rules to help beat Covid.

Watch Dave’s video and find out more about his story.

25.03.21

“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.”

“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.”

18.03.21

“We owe it to NHS workers, and ourselves, to continue taking the necessary Covid precautions. Don’t pop to your friends, don’t enjoy a big family dinner at your mam’s. We’re not there yet but we’re heading there. Stay strong.”

“It was my birthday last week and I had planned a short break to Poland with my partner Denise and some friends. But it is what it is, isn’t it? We’ll get there - look at the progress we’re making.

In terms of holidaying, I do think there’s going to be some kind of Covid passport programme. Some countries have already announced that they’re going to restart non-essential international travel to fully vaccinated tourists. It makes sense. We can’t be too cautious now that we have the upper hand on the virus.

As Covid infections and the death rate falls, it’s easy to become impatient with the unlocking process. Being on the frontline, every single day we’re busy caring for those who need it. During the height of both Covid waves, we’ve been incredibly stretched and put everything into caring for as many people as possible. We’re now at a stage where the pressure isn’t as intense. We need it to stay this way which is why we shouldn’t speed up the lockdown process.

As we unlock, our crews will inevitably become busier with call outs associated with people out and about whether that’s on the road or in the pub. This is why unlocking is a very tightly managed process. The roadmap out of lockdown is designed to keep the virus under control so that the NHS has capacity to deal with more non-Covid care as we return to normal.

Whether infection rates are high or low, at work we’re still following very strict Covid precautions. It can be difficult communicating with patients when wearing masks and working a 12-hour shift in full PPE is no mean feat, but we’re motivated to follow guidelines to the letter because it enables us to do our job safely and helps to reduce the spread of Covid.

It’s been a tough year of lockdowns and continued restrictions and I totally appreciate how fed up everyone is now. People’s perseverance and patience is paying off though so thank you for that.

The biggest challenge we’ve faced as an ambulance service is being intensely busy but trying to remain as resilient as possible mentally and physically strong too despite the heavy workload.

Everyone at work has pulled together. There’s been good days and bad days but my colleagues have been amazing throughout it all. They have worked tirelessly through the darkest moments of the pandemic and are still working now with a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. The collective effort has been outstanding and demonstrates just how dedicated our NHS is.

We owe it to them, and ourselves, to continue taking the necessary Covid precautions. Please keep following basic hygiene measures, wear masks and although there’s some leeway on socialising outdoors please do not mix indoors. Don’t pop to your friends, don’t enjoy a big family dinner at your mam’s. We’re not there yet but we’re heading there. Stay strong.”

11.03.21

“While we’re all talking about the great strides made with the vaccination programme, we also need to understand the importance of testing. Testing is vital to keeping the virus under control.”

“I think we can all agree that lockdown is working, and the precautions we’re taking - wearing masks, keeping social contact to a minimum and washing our hands regularly - are paving the way to normality. But we’re at a precarious point of the pandemic now and it would be wrong to think Covid is something we can start putting behind us. The pandemic is not over.

When schools returned last time, calls to 111 inevitably increased with worried parents and carers unsure if their child has Covid, asking about testing, and wondering whether it’s safe for them to go to school. Although the NHS is not at an overwhelming point anymore, we’re still extremely busy with both Covid and non-Covid care.

Whilst schools, parents and children have gone through the return to school process already, it’s still important to know which NHS service to contact for different concerns.  Visiting your GP or www.111.nhs.uk is a great first port of call for symptoms of Covid or if someone’s feeling unwell. Of course, in a life-threatening situation always call 999 but 111 online is a really useful resource which can let you know what medical assistance you may need. If it’s strictly about Covid and needing to test the best port of call is 119. You can call this number directly to book a Covid test for you or a family member.

While we’re all talking about the great strides made with the vaccination programme, we also need to understand the importance of testing. Testing is vital to keeping the virus under control. Many NHS workers like us test themselves twice a week so that they’re able to safely carry out their job without spreading the virus. It’s part of our routines now and it’s so important to do as we’re helping to keep people safe.

I know secondary schoolchildren have been asked to do weekly tests as well. Yes, it’s an inconvenience and I completely understand why young people are not keen on doing the tests but think of the bigger picture. By doing so, we’re not only getting kids back into the classroom which I think we all agree is essential but we’re also protecting people. We’re protecting our friends, teachers and everyone else connected to our school communities.

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and I know how desperate we all are to pop into our mam’s house - I feel the same. Although she’s had the first dose of the vaccine and I’m fully vaccinated, we’re still being cautious. I’m planning a doorstep visit to give her a card and present and enjoy a socially distant catch up with her. We’ll still both wear our masks and remain two metres apart.

With over 21 million people now vaccinated, it’s easy to forget that the key message is still ‘stay at home’. We can’t risk any regional or local spike that might set us back. As well as keeping social contact to a minimum, and not mixing within people’s homes, staying local is important because containing the spread of Covid is still the priority.

If we stick to the rules and participate in the national testing regime we’re massively helping to stop the spread as well as giving the vaccine time to immunise people. I know the end is in sight but we must follow the road map towards it slowly and cautiously.

04.03.21

“The vaccine gives everyone hope but we must understand that it’s the rules which have enabled us to get to this point …the virus is not at bay - we must keep fighting it.”

“The road out of lockdown has now been set. It’s slow and cautious which I think is the right approach to take. I know there’s pressure to open up quickly but we’ve been there before. I think some of you might agree that we’ve probably opened up too quickly with previous lockdowns. We want to get it right this time as none of us wants to go back to square one.

The first lifting of restrictions is a big test - schools will be going back before the second raft of relaxations come in on March 29th which will see, for instance, organised outdoor sports return for adults and children.

I think it’s important that young people are prioritised as we start coming out of lockdown - they have missed out on so much and their mental and physical health has been affected. They need to be back with their friends, back to regular exercise and back to their education.

In the long term, the vaccine is showing initial signs that it will enable Covid to become a manageable virus despite the variants. We have a roadmap back to normality but for now, the social distancing rules in place remain vital. We still must wear our masks, sanitise our hands regularly and keep our social distance in public spaces. The message of ‘hands, face, space’ is so important in protecting our health and the health of others. The pandemic has given us a lesson in basic hygiene and I don’t think we’ll take that for granted again.

The mood at work is pretty upbeat. It’s been such a busy winter so far but we have pulled together and ensured that we can get to every patient who needs care. As a team, we’ve shown great resilience and remained positive and that’s testament to the shared values we hold and our common goal to treat as many people as possible as effectively as we can.

While it’s been physically draining at times, it’s the mental toll that’s been the toughest. We’ve had to grit our teeth and continue to push forward, dealing with whatever we’re faced with day-in, day-out.

The vaccine gives everyone hope but we must understand that it’s the rules which have enabled us to get to this point. Infection rates are down and hospital admissions have slowed but comparatively the figures are still high. This alone is enough to remind us that the virus is not at bay - we must keep fighting it.

Everyone’s efforts are appreciated so far but we now need to guard against complacency and letting our standards slip. Please continue with your hard work and commitment to drive down the spread of Covid by following the rules. This will give the vaccine rollout a chance to take effect too.”

25.02.21

“Let’s stay ahead of the virus as much as we can by following the rules. Together, we can do this.”

“The vaccination programme is doing so well. A few family members in their early 50s are getting invited which is encouraging. Although the vaccination programme is starting to have an initial impact, it’s the social distancing rules that remain vital in helping to not just get the virus under control but to keep it under control on a long-term basis.

The only sure-fire way to reduce the infection rate and keep on top of the virus is by wearing masks, sanitising hands often and keeping your distance where possible. I do agree that social distancing should remain in the long term. We know Covid isn’t going away, but to get to a dominant position in managing the virus, we need to ensure the infection rate is as low as possible. The mask-wearing, extra hygiene measures and staying two metres apart in public places play a huge role in doing this.

Given how high the infection rate and death toll was over Christmas and into the new year in the North East, we’ve worked really hard – and done well – in getting this down. And we’ve done this by working together. It makes me proud to be from the North East when I read about the progress we’ve made.

Because of our hard work and diligence, we’re in a position to move forward as we start looking at how we can safely come out of lockdown. I know it’s a slow process but we want this lockdown to be the last one so we must remain cautious.

This is why I am involved in the BeatCovidNE campaign because we need to keep the message going, reminding people to follow the rules. It’s so easy to break or bend them but that’ll send us back to square one. And we don’t want to go back. Everywhere I go, people recognise me now. Whether that’s from being in the paper, on the back of a bin lorry, or the metro station. It’s amazing how many people the campaign has reached.

At work, the majority of us have had our first dose of the vaccine, which is a huge milestone for us. This, coupled with social distancing rules, is helping the North East Ambulance Service to provide care to everyone who needs it.

I do hope once the mass vaccination of the population is done, we’re going to keep Covid at bay with an annual Covid booster to ensure it’s consistently managed. We do have a long way to go though before we reach that point so, while we get there, it’s the social distancing rules that are crucial. These rules are going to protect you and others, more than the vaccine will right now.

The effort has been wonderful - we can’t spoil that now. The next couple of months will prove critical in ensuring we remain on the path out of lockdown. Let’s stay ahead of the virus as much as we can by following the rules. Together, we can do this.”

18.02.21

“If you are struggling…please don’t keep it all in. Talk to someone. Keep your spirits up, pick the phone up - it’s really important to talk.”

“The bad weather, especially the ice and snow, has created a busier week at work as we’re dealing with a lot of slips and falls. The call outs are still pretty constant but we don’t expect anything less, given it’s one of our coldest winters in a few years and we’re living through a pandemic too. It’s busy but we’re doing fantastically well at managing workloads and ensuring we’re reaching as many people as possible.

It’s good that hospital admissions are slowing but we need the number of those requiring hospital treatment to be a lot lower, reinforcing why social distancing rules still hold the key to the North East coming out of lockdown. Stay at home. That’s how we’re going to make real progress.

Although the rules seem simple to follow - wear a mask, sanitise your hands regularly and keep social contact to an absolute minimum - they can be easily broken.

As we’re in lockdown we’re not spending money on going out whether that’s to the pub, the cinema, a museum or a soft play. Because of this, many people are spending more money on home improvements.

Tradespeople are legally allowed in your home but it’s so important that they follow the guidance and you do too. If you are getting any work done, please ensure the tradesperson is acting in a Covid safe way. They must wear a mask. They must always remain two metres away from you and any other member of your household.

Avoid talking at length with them and even offering them a cuppa. I know that may sound excessive, but the virus can be passed on so easily even if you or the person doing work in your home isn’t displaying any symptoms. The same applies if you see someone in the street, popping to the local shop. It’s natural to stop and chat, especially when you aren’t seeing many people at the moment, but is it worth the risk? Give them a call when you get home instead.

We know we’re dealing with a virus that spreads like wildfire, so we must have this at the front of our minds when in public places. Even at work for those who can’t work from home, remember the importance of ‘hands, face, space’.

I read in the paper last week that supermarkets and non-essential shops are experiencing higher footfalls lately. I know we’re growing bored and the lockdown is getting tiresome, but we are right on the verge of seeing some form of relaxations to lockdown. Let’s not undo all our hard work. We’re so close now.

The vaccination programme is going from strength to strength, we’ve vaccinated nearly 20% of the population now, which is a huge achievement. This percentage will continue to rise over the next few weeks and put us in a strong position. I know it’s tough, but we just have to keep faith in the rules.

If you are struggling, which is completely understandable given we’re nearly a year into life-changing restrictions and repeated lockdowns, please don’t keep it all in. Talk to someone. Keep your spirits up, pick up the phone - it’s really important to talk. And look forward to when we can see each other in person again; laugh, smile and have a hug. Those days will come again.”

11.02.21

“Right now, we need to focus on the present. The stay at home message is working and by following the rules we are getting closer to our normal lives.”

“It’s been over a month now since the third national lockdown began and I know it gets monotonous, but I’m focused on the end result. Infection rates are continuing to fall, and hospital admissions are starting to reduce, albeit it slowly. The rules do work - if you stick to them consistently.

I know it’s tough and mentally draining but our huge efforts to minimise social contact are starting to pay off. I would like to share a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has listened to the advice, followed the guidance and are doing all they can to reduce the transmission of the virus. Cases in the North East are falling each week, and this is because we have come together, determined to beat this virus and reclaim normality.

Although the news about emerging variants is worrying, the rules in place safeguard us all against all strains of the virus. If we social distance, ensure we travel only within our local area, wear our masks and wash our hands regularly, we’ll be able to slow the spread. I know it’s tempting to visit busy beauty spots but it’s so important that we stay home, or as close to home as possible, so we can enjoy these kinds of trips in the future. We can’t risk localised spikes as our road out of this continues.

The vaccine news gets better and better. It’s great to hear that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduces transmission. These are positive signs that will help us get out of the pandemic a lot quicker. However, we must be mindful that more of the population is still to be vaccinated and until then our safest bet of bringing us out of lockdown is by following the stay-at-home message.

At a local level, our vaccination hub is continuing and, week by week, more of my colleagues are getting vaccinated. This, coupled with the rules, is helping to bring Covid under control but we are far from out of the woods yet. This is why I get so annoyed and disappointed at those who spread false information online about the virus being a hoax.

They need to see the impact it’s had on the lives of thousands of people across the region. It’s been devastating. I have lost people personally - there are thousands of families across the region who have lost loved ones to Covid. Covid deniers do not see the trauma of dealing with it daily like I do.

Right now though, we need to focus on the present. The stay at home message is working and by following the rules we are getting closer to our normal lives. Until then though, we must remain compliant, keep our distance and have faith in the vaccination programme.”

04.02.21

“We must remember that many people who have the virus are symptomless. They don’t know they have it and don’t know that they’re passing it on. It’s a silent killer.”

We caught up with 55-year-old Dave Langley, a clinical care manager with the North East Ambulance Service. We wanted to find out how he’s coping with lockdown, his thoughts on falling Covid infection rates and why he can’t wait to experience a live football game again, watching his beloved Sunderland AFC.

“I’m on leave this week which is a welcome break because it’s been - and continues to be - an incredibly busy winter. This lockdown has made me realise how content I can be at home. Before Covid, if I felt at a loose end, I would pop down to the club for a chit-chat with people. Now though, I have learnt that I don’t always have to be out and about, doing something. I am happy simply staying at home.

North East infection rates are falling, and this is a credit to people sticking to the rules. Given the news that the UK variant is 30% more deadly, making sure you wear a mask, minimise social contact and wash your hands regularly is still so important. I think most people across the region do realise this. It’s so ingrained in our daily routines now, isn’t it? I know my partner Denise always checks that she’s got her handbag, phone and mask before she leaves the house. I’m always carrying a small bottle of hand sanitiser in my pocket too.

While we’re working hard to get the infection rate down, this is not a time to become complacent. We must continue being vigilant, following the government’s stay at home message and consistently stick to the rules. Becoming a bit careless by, for instance, forgetting to wear your mask when at the supermarket, to distance from your colleagues at work or travelling out of your usual area is enough to tip the infection rate the other way. It’s that finely balanced at the moment.

I know everyone wants to know when restrictions are going to be lifted but we must accept that the threat of Covid is higher than ever at the moment. If we are going to work our way out of this lockdown then the only solution to that is by following the rules, staying at home, and not seeing our friends and family unless they form part of our support bubble.

As a region, we’re working so fast in getting the most vulnerable groups vaccinated and we’re ahead of the national curve. Several of my family members have had the vaccine now. My 78-year-old mam has had her first dose which is a huge relief and so has Denise and my daughter who is an A and E nurse. Although we have all received our first dose, we know we’re not now immune to Covid and we could easily transmit it without knowing.

We must remember that many people who have the virus are symptomless. They don’t know they have it and don’t know that they’re passing it on. It’s a silent killer. This is where we really need to communicate that stay-at-home message. Act like you have Covid. Keep social contact to a minimum. That’s the best thing you can do.

Of course, like everyone, I am missing normal life. I hugely miss going to watch Sunderland play every weekend. It was always a good day out. We also had a couple’s getaway planned for March but sadly that’s off the cards now.

The thing that’s keeping me going is a summer where Covid infections are low. If we do the hard work now, we’ll hopefully be able to make the most of the better weather. I would love nothing more than to meet friends down the seafront to enjoy some sunshine, a few drinks and just each other’s company. I can’t wait for those days to return.”

29.01.21

“Like everyone, I can’t wait to go out for a curry and a few drinks. Until then, we must stay home and minimise our social contact.”

As the national lockdown continues, we spoke to Dave Langley to find out how he’s doing, what he thinks about the region’s efforts in the vaccination roll out and why following the rules should be everyone’s priority right now.

“I’m feeling pretty good considering the situation we’re in. My partner Denise and I have been taking part in a weekend Zoom call with all our friends. There are about 10 couples involved and it’s great to see faces we haven’t seen in person for so long now.

At work, things are full on but I’m so impressed by the way we are handling it all. We are working incredibly hard together, as a team, giving it our best efforts to help as many people as we can. A colleague sent me a text the other day to say he saw me on the back of a bin lorry as part of the BeatCovidNE campaign. That made me smile and it’s good to know the message is reaching local communities.

I have been particularly impressed with the region’s vaccination roll out programme - it’s been really well managed. South Tyneside has received particular praise from the Prime Minister for how quickly we’re vaccinating care home residents. The local roll out has been exceptional with the councils and NHS trusts working tirelessly to get as many vulnerable groups vaccinated as possible.

I’m also pleased that the North East Ambulance Service is starting an in-house vaccination programme to vaccinate as many staff as possible. This week alone, 800 vaccine slots have been created for staff which is great news. Vaccinating those on the frontline is an effective move because it’ll prove critical in protecting people and reducing community transmission of Covid.

While the vaccination programme is hitting the headlines, we must be mindful of our current reality. The UK is reaching a death rate of nearly 100,000 and daily death tolls are higher than they’ve ever been. Receiving the first dose of the vaccine does not make you Covid immune. I’ve had my first vaccine but I know it’s still so important to follow the rules.

The only way the death rate will fall is by lower infection rates and the only sure-fire way to do this is to minimise social contact. Only leave your home if essential for work, medical reasons or food supplies, wear a mask wherever you go and wash your hands regularly.

I know it’s tough to keep going but our efforts are working. The infection rates are coming down and that’s credit to everyone who continues to stick to the rules to get us out of lockdown quicker.

If I’m ever feeling like I’m stuck in the house, I just pop to the local park to get some fresh air. There’s no need to go to another area or town. Staying local is easier and safer. I miss going on holiday but at work I’m reminded why we’re in lockdown and I know if I want to jet off again, sticking to social distancing is vital.

Like everyone, I can’t wait to go out for a curry and a few drinks. Until then, we must stay home and minimise our social contact. It’s the only way we’re going to bring the virus back under control until the vaccine can prove it’s worth.”

21.01.21

“There’s a strong feeling of resilience and positivity at work. We’re feeling optimistic because we know if everyone sticks to the rules for a little while longer, we’ll reach the end of this long, dark tunnel.”

We caught up with Dave Langley, a clinical care manager with the North East Ambulance Service, to find out how he was adjusting to lockdown three. Dave told us a bit about his day-to-day life and explained why we need to make tweaks to our daily routines while the mass vaccination programme gets underway.

“Work is extremely busy. To alleviate pressure on our hospitals as much as we can, paramedics, with their life saving skills, treat as many people as possible at home as safely as we can.

We are the first line of protection for hospitals and, while we’re hectic, we know that with more and more people getting vaccinated daily, we’ll come out of this.

Some of my team is helping to administer the vaccination at the Centre For Life in Newcastle and they’ve said how well organised it is. The process is slick, everyone feels safe and supported with the information they need to know about the vaccine.

I’ve had the first vaccine dose and my next one is in March. I understand why the government has increased the period between getting the first and second dose. By doing this, it means many more people will have a good level of protection rather than none at all.

Being under some form of lockdown has become a way of life. Right now, the message is to ‘stay at home’. When not working, I’m at home, limiting my social contact as much as possible. My partner Denise and I only visit the supermarket once a week. I’m aware this is easier to do than if we were feeding several growing children but the more often we mix in places like supermarkets and essential shops, the greater the risk of passing on or contracting the virus.

We are, in effect, acting like we have Covid. As soon as I leave the house, whether it’s to go to work or the local shop, I put on my mask. It’s become second nature to sanitise my hands before I leave the house, and then in the car, and also use the sanitiser provided by my workplace or the shop I’m entering. It’s such a normal part of daily life now.

If Denise and I could socialise with friends every weekend, we would. We haven’t been able to do that for a long time now - we greatly miss it - but we know there’s a good reason for it. If we want to do these things in the future, we must consistently follow the rules.

Stay local to exercise, don’t travel via car or train to reach a place to exercise. Start at your front door and finish at your front door. If you see someone you know when shopping or exercising, no matter how unnatural it feels, don’t stop and have a chat - call them when you get home. Act like you have the virus.

All we need to do now is get to the other side of this. There’s a strong feeling of resilience and positivity at work. We’re feeling optimistic because we know if everyone sticks to the rules for a little while longer, we’ll reach the end of this long, dark tunnel. The vaccine has been found - more than one - it’s only a matter of time now.

Until then though, maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask wherever you go - whether that’s queuing to get into a supermarket or to pick up a takeaway from your favourite restaurant - and sanitising your hands properly is the only way that’s going to protect you and your loved ones and get us all out of this sooner rather than later.

If people don’t follow the rules, we are putting even more pressure on an already strained NHS. The NHS saves lives and to ensure that continues people need to stick to the rules. It’s that simple.”

14.01.2021

“Leaving your home for essential reasons only such as food shopping, medical reasons or exercise as well as keeping your distance, wearing your mask and washing your hands can save a life.”

We spoke to Dave Langley, who has worked for the North East Ambulance Service for 34 years. We discussed how he’s finding lockdown three, his thoughts on the new Covid-19 variant and why it’s more important than ever to follow the rules.

“Given my role at work, I think another full lockdown was inevitable, especially with the new variant. The hospitals are in real danger of being overwhelmed - it’s a scary, worrying situation.

The new measures can only help to reduce the transmission of Covid if people follow the guidelines with no rule-breaking or bending. It is a case of life and death now and we all need to be compliant.

Over the Christmas and new year break, I think we expected that people were going to be a bit lax and switch off to the Covid guidance. You can’t blame them really and I do understand but infections rates and hospitalisations have risen. And that was just a very small window of relaxation - one day. Imagine if we didn’t have any measures in place at all for even a one- or two-week period?

The North East Ambulance Service is working really hard and coping incredibly well under the circumstances. Our paramedics are highly skilled and are able to treat a lot of people at home. We do our best to manage hospital admissions as much as we can but there are many people falling ill with Covid – it really can make you seriously poorly.

I’ve suffered a personal Covid loss too with my partner’s cousin recently dying. He was living with cancer but leading a relatively normal life. However, he contracted the virus and wasn’t strong enough to beat it - and he probably caught it from simply walking past someone.

The new variant is accelerating the spread of the virus, making it harder to get under control. This is why people need to stick to the rules.

As much as you might want to, you can’t even pop next door to see your neighbour for a quick cuppa, because you are breaking the rules (unless they’re your support bubble) and you could be spreading the virus without knowing.

If we don’t stick to the rules, more people are going to become infected at a faster rate due to the new variant. Although it’s not more severe, more people will become poorly because it spreads quicker which, in turn, puts an even greater strain on an extremely stretched NHS.

This is why the basic rules play such a critical role. Leaving your home for essential reasons only such as food shopping, medical reasons or exercise as well as keeping your distance, wearing your mask and washing your hands can save a life. If you’re in a public place such as a supermarket or on a beach, please keep your distance. If it’s too busy, go back another time.

I know boredom does set in though. Lockdown box sets are a big hit in our house and we’re looking at booking a holiday which we hope to go on in the next year or so. Video technology is playing a key part too by ensuring we keep in touch with our families. You can support your loved ones by simply picking up the phone for a chat. It does make a huge difference.

The vaccine is our answer to getting out of this. I am so pleased with the huge uptake in the vaccine. People want it and people are keen to get it and that’s what we need, that kind of mindset. In the vaccine versus the virus race, I truly believe the vaccine will win but only if we keep following the rules. A big part of this is to continue to test if you get symptoms and self-isolate properly.

Stay at home. That very simple act will make a huge difference if we all do it and stick to it.”

24.12.2020

“Enjoy yourself but be sensible. Be safe. If you do start feeling a bit under the weather, get a test and please self-isolate. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s only for 10 days. By doing so, you minimise the spread and protect us all.”

We caught up with Dave Langley, who has worked for the North East Ambulance Service for 34 years. We discussed how he’s finding living through the pandemic and the highs and lows of day-to-day life as well as his plans for a Covid-shaped Christmas.

“It’s been a busy week. My partner Denise, who’s a nurse on a Covid ward, and I have been like passing ships in the night as she’s been on night shift and I’ve been on 12-hour day shifts. Work has been busy, but it’s been encouraging to see the rates of infection falling in the North East.

Wearing masks is a huge challenge. Until you have to wear one for every single minute of your 12-hour shift and ensure you continue to wash your hands, change PPE as required and remain socially distant where possible too, you don’t realise just how tricky it is. 

I am so used to wearing my mask now, it’s second nature. A bit like not leaving the house without your phone! Because we must be extra vigilant at work, I take that into my personal life. If I’m going to a shop or supermarket, I pop my mask on before I get out of the car and not just before I step into the store - minimising risk is always at the front of my mind.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. If you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you just how much I love this time of year! My home is lit up like a Santa’s grotto - I have around 10 inflatable Christmas decorations outside my home and in the garden.

Normally, all the family are round watching us decorate the house and seeing the lights go on. It’s been very different this year though. We shared a video of the house all lit up with the decorations on Facebook for my family to see, as opposed to anyone coming over. I don’t like to dwell on that too much as it’s upsetting, isn’t it?

Christmas this year isn’t going to be the same in our home. Denise and I, we’re both very sociable people, and usually we would have lots of days and nights out planned with our friends and colleagues when we are not on shift. This year though there’ll be no meeting the lads down the club, no meals out together in a big group, no work Christmas party. It feels weird.

We must keep our guard up and follow the rules over Christmas. If we do this, we’re also helping others to enjoy a Covid-safe Christmas too. I’m a bit anxious as I worry people might become a little bit too relaxed and let their guard down, not wash their hands as much and not follow social distancing guidelines. It’s the season of sharing, whether that’s chocolate, hugs or laughter, and unfortunately that’s where Covid thrives.

If I had any advice this Christmas, I would say enjoy yourself but be sensible. Be safe. If you do start feeling a bit under the weather, get a test and please self-isolate. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s only for 10 days. By doing so, you minimise the spread and protect us all.”

18.12.2020

“It’s the unknown that drives fear around Covid. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t smell it. Some people don’t even get any symptoms and can pass it on without realising.”

55-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.

“Our home is busy and happy. My partner and I both have children, and Denise recently became a great-grandmother - our place is lively and energetic. Because we help care for the younger members of the family when we’re not working, we are vigilant about not bringing the virus into our home, especially given what we do. In my job, I am all too aware of the risks of all kinds of illness but Covid is something that’s completely blown my mind. I have seen it affect many different people in so many ways.

It’s the unknown that drives fear around Covid. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t smell it. We can’t pinpoint where it is. Some people don’t even get any symptoms and can pass it on without realising. This is why all the precautions and minimising physical contact is so important.

The main worry is that you don’t know how it’s going to affect you - I have seen with my own eyes people become seriously ill from Covid - which is why doing everything we can, taking on that personal responsibility and following the rules, is vital.

It is upsetting, but the fact is, the less contact we physically have with people, the less we’re likely to catch the virus. If everyone minimised their contact as much as possible, then we will see infection rates continue to drop and, as a knock-on effect, take a step closer to normality.

I do think the people of the North East are trying their hardest to stick to the rules. Because that’s the key isn’t it? Being consistent. And we’ve done a great job. The hospitals, although busy, have coped. There are good reasons for this: people are sanitising, they’re wearing masks, they’re trying to keep their distance. All the things we’re being told to do, that you feel are being repeated over and over again, they are so important.

Let’s continue fighting the good fight. Let’s respect the rules, as confining as they are. We must try and keep this virus at bay until, hopefully, the vaccines kick in and do the world a huge favour.”

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