The borough paused at 12pm for a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who have died during the crisis.
The day of reflection was organised by the end-of-life charity Marie Curie and South Shields town hall will tonight be lit in yellow – the colour of the charity – as part of the tributes.
This evening at 8pm people are being encouraged to stand on their doorsteps with phones, candles and torches to signify a “beacon of remembrance”.
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Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council said: “The last 12 months have been the most challenging many of our communities have faced and I have been filled with pride time and time again at how the people of South Tyneside have come together to fight back against covid and support others in need.
“On the anniversary of the first UK lockdown we can all reflect on the challenges we have overcome, the losses and hardship we have faced, but also the brighter future we can hope for.”
The Deputy Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Gladys Hobson, who was promoting the 8pm vigil, said: “The past year has, without doubt, been one of the most challenging for our communities. It has been a year like no other, a year in which many of us will have been affected by Covid or know someone who has been affected.
“This day of reflection is important as it allows us to stand together, reflect on our collective loss but also look forward to a brighter future.
“It is a time to also remember all those who were there for us in our darkest of days. It is important that we hold in our memory all the people who went above and beyond throughout this crisis. From our wonderful NHS staff to teachers, social care workers and our army of volunteers, to name but a few, those who really needed our support continued to receive it.
“Sadly we are not yet done with Covid but this day will focus our minds on the tremendous efforts everyone has made in the fight against the virus and remind us of the need to continue to follow the guidance.
“By continuing to work together as a community we will prevail.”
Nationally, the Queen and Prime Minister led tributes acknowledging the grief and loss of the last year as the nation fell silent on the anniversary of the first national lockdown.
The Queen reflected on the “grief and loss felt by so many” in a message accompanying flowers sent to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London, where the Duke of Edinburgh had heart surgery.
The message read: “As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took part in a private moment of reflection in Westminster Abbey, observing the minute’s silence in the abbey’s Shrine of St Edward the Confessor.
William then lit a candle in remembrance at the altar of the Shrine, and Kate placed fresh daffodils next to the candle.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who observed the minute’s silence privately, offered his “sincere condolences” to people bereaved during the pandemic.
He said: “Today, the anniversary of the first lockdown, is an opportunity to reflect on the past year – one of the most difficult in our country’s history.
“We should also remember the great spirit shown by our nation over this past year. We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the front line as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus.”
According to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics, there have been 629,623 deaths from all causes registered in England and Wales between March 21 2020 and the week ending March 12 2021.
The figures also show that, across the UK, 149,117 deaths have now occurred where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
The Health Foundation calculates that those who died with Covid-19 have lost up to 10 years of life on average, with a total of up to 1.5 million potential years of life lost.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Public Health England strategic response director for Covid-19, said: “This virus has left no one untouched and it has been the most challenging time both personally and professionally that many of us have ever faced.
“I want to say thank you today to all the public health professionals and key workers who have worked long and difficult hours to help keep the country safe. The commitment you have shown is an inspiration to us all.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “This day of reflection is an opportunity to pause and remember all that’s happened over the past year, to mourn those who have died but also to give thanks for those who have looked after us and our communities.
“It is a moment to pray together to our Father in Heaven to comfort us in our grief and to lead us into the hope of the risen Christ and the eternal life he promises.
“As we reflect on the pandemic, may He strengthen our resolve to rebuild a kinder, fairer and more compassionate society, may He be with those who are struggling and may He guide us in honouring those we have lost over the past year.”