'True colours of our community have shone in lockdown'

North Norfolk District Council leader Tom FitzPatrick.

Norfolk County Council Councillor for Fakenham Tom FitzPatrick. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

In the first of his new monthly columns, county councillor for Fakenham Tom FitzPatrick shines a light on the community spirit that has been shown throughout the coronavirus lockdowns. 

When the lockdown was first announced to begin in March of last year at came as a shock to most of us, despite the pictures and stories we had seen from Italy and elsewhere about their health services being overwhelmed.

Quiet streets during the Coronavirus lockdown in Fakenham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Fakenham's town centre was eerily quiet during the first coronavirus lockdown. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY

At the back of most of our minds were questions such as how we would cope, more so for those already isolated and finding it hard to do things such as get to the shops and access medical help. Who could they turn to for help?

We also wondered how long it would last, what would be the financial consequences, could we cope with staying over six feet away from others and effectively locking out friends from our homes? Lots of questions with perhaps not too many answers.

The Fakenham medical practice.

The Fakenham medical practice. - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Over a year later we are emerging from the third lockdown and slowly returning to what has been described as the ‘new normal’ and looking at a changed landscape when it comes to running our lives.

There will continue to be restrictions on travelling abroad for holidays and large gatherings, but there have been plus points in all of what has happened to people have looked out for their neighbours and others.

Mathew Boomer from Norfolk County Council handing over some laptops to Jackie Appleby, business mana

Mathew Boomer from Norfolk County Council handing over some laptops to a school. Donating and distributing computer equipment so children could continue to work at home throughout the lockdowns was one way the community pulled together during the pandemic. - Credit: Archant

There have always been groups of people doings things to help others in our communities, work done by the churches, lunch clubs, community fridge, people running their local village halls and other community facilities, not forgetting the scouts, guides, cadets, sports clubs and many others, all quietly run by volunteers over the years.

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Many of these were the first to step up and offer their help to others. But we also saw a huge amount of help and goodwill in addition to these organised groups as people restricted to being at home rather than at work looked to see what they could do to lend a hand as well.

Scott Saunders, owner of Newsklip in Fakenham, which will offer a newspaper and magazine delivery se

Scott Saunders, owner of Newsklip in Fakenham, which will offer a newspaper and magazine delivery service. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

In some cases, village and community neighbourhood schemes were set up and details circulated, in other cases people offered to help their immediate neighbours with things such as fetching supplies, prescriptions or just having a socially distanced chat over the garden fence to make sure that people knew they always had someone nearby for a chat.

Others made themselves available to chat to people on the phone so that there was always a friendly ear available.

Technology helped to make it possible for many to work from home and keep in touch with family in a way which simply could not have happened ten years ago, some will see their working methods change forever.

People could work from their living rooms on laptops as if they were in the office, school students could get lessons online, not always ideal in some cases but better then being isolated.

Huge efforts were made to ensure that vulnerable children and young people without the necessary equipment did not fall behind and the drive by the county council and the Archant press which delivered nearly 6,000 devices to meet the need was yet another heartening response from our community.

Through the periods of lockdown, a lot of people continued to go to work to provide us with our essential services. The bins continued to be emptied, food shops were open with staff filling the shelves, buses ran, to mention only some.

Medical staff continued to provide services throughout, then really stepped up to the mark with the vaccine rollout, hugely supported by volunteers. Those of us who have been vaccinated at the Fakenham Medical Practice know just how efficiently this is being done.

If you had asked me in March last year to list likely positives when the lockdown was announced, I would probably have said that I would need to wait and see.

There are still difficulties ahead, but the real positive is the way people have rallied around one another and helped in so many ways, each of which has had a positive effect and shows what a great community we have in this area.