'This past year has been like no other in living memory' - South Tyneside MPs on year living with the Covid-19 pandemic

South Tyneside's MPs have told how the past year has left them feeling ‘humbled’ by some of the ‘true heroes’ who have helped communities through the pandemic.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 6:00 am

On March 23, 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the first national lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Citizens across the UK were told to only leave their homes for essential activities like food shopping, daily exercise and workplace travel for essential workers.

Although restrictions were lifted in early summer, South Tyneside was subsequently placed in Tiers 2 and 3 of the Government’s local lockdown system before the latest national lockdown was imposed at the beginning of this year.

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The borough's two MPs, Kate Osborne (left) and Emma Lewell-Buck (right), reflect on a year like no other for South Tyneside amid the coronavirus pandemic

Political leaders have noted the devastating impacts the past 12 months have brought for the borough and for the region more widely.

South Shields MP Emma, Lewell-Buck, spoke of changes to the area’s economy brought on by Covid-19, alongside other trials faced by residents over the past 12 months.

"This past year has been like no other in living memory and has seen changes to the way we live our lives that nobody could have predicted,” she said.

"Sadly, many lives here in South Shields have been cut short their loved ones unable to properly say goodbye and often left grieving alone. Lives have changed forever.

“Our local economy has also seen dramatic changes with livelihoods, jobs and businesses lost.”

Both MPs said they were struck by the sense of community spirit, as well as individual acts of kindness in the area, witnessed during the pandemic months.

Mrs Lewell-Buck added: “Throughout these past twelve months I have been truly humbled by our key workers and the kindness shown by people in South Shields. Key workers who have placed themselves at risk to protect us and community champions who have provided a lifeline for others.

“Like everyone I am looking forward to happier days but in the meantime, I want to say thank you to my constituents, you make me proud every single day.”

The MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne, argues there must now be a robust inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic, pointing to failings that have contributed to the UK holding the record for the highest number of Covid deaths in Europe.

“Although there is light at the end of the tunnel with the success of the NHS-led Vaccination programme this Government’s catastrophic handling of this pandemic will never be forgotten,” she said.

“On the Tories’ watch, over 125,000 Covid-related deaths have tragically occurred. There was also a severe lack of PPE equipment, failings with track and trace, and advising hospitals to discharge thousands of patients into care homes not knowing if they had Covid or not was an act of negligence.

"There was also the awarding of multi-million pound contracts to their friends which says everything about the capabilities of this government and their lack of care for the people of this country.

"Once we are through this, we must have an independent review of the Government’s handling of the pandemic.”

Ms Osborne also said the past year had ”thrown up some true heroes who have kept our communities working and kept it moving during these tough times".

She continued: “I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in supporting our communities and will continue to do so in these difficult weeks ahead.

"Creating food parcels for vulnerable members of the community, making PPE equipment, and fundraising to support others, are just a small part of many acts of kindness.”

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