By Nathan Findlay –
As we all know, COVID-19 has had a massive worldwide impact on an unprecedented scale over the past year, affecting our very way of life. Nationally, we’ve had three separate lockdowns, where schools, workplaces and all manner of institutions have had to either close, or dramatically shift from the established norm.
While the ways in which the pandemic has affected the world is evident, today I wanted to take a look on a more local level, and examine how COVID-19 has affected local businesses and people in my home town of Holmfirth.
One, two, three: lockdown
It’s almost hard to believe that the first lockdown was put in place almost a year ago on March 23rd 2020. It certainly brought a shock to the whole of the UK. Almost overnight people no longer able to go to work, exams were cancelled and home-schooling became the norm for a lot of students.
A lot of things changed very quickly, and people had to adapt to it. This lockdown remained until the middle of July when infection rates mercifully started dropping. But it was far from the end. Just when we thought things turning around slightly, cases started rising rapidly, and we were once again asked to stay home.
On the 31st of October, the 2nd lockdown was announced. Cases had started to rise again at hereto unforeseen levels and action was needed. A week later on November the 5th the UK went into full lockdown for a month. The aim appeared to be ‘bring cases down again so that the country can open up again for Christmas’. A key difference between this lockdown and the first was that institutions such as schools and colleges remained open for the duration.
This short lockdown, unfortunately, appeared to have little effect, and soon after the Christmas holidays, the UK’s third and most recent lockdown was put in place. This lockdown has been much like the first, with almost everything closed and schools and colleges moving back to working and learning from home.
As of March 8th schools and colleges have once again reopened, as part of the governments new ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. Hopefully, this more cautious approach will mean we are able to stay out of lockdown on a more permanent basis, but much work is still to be done.
Life at College
For me, as a college student, there a couple of things that have stayed the same and a couple of things that have changed. We still have to wear face-coverings in our lessons and take care to use social distancing while we are in the college building, but more robust measures have been put in place.
One of the biggest changes is that twice a week students are now tested for the virus. This is something that will be done on a regular basis until the government is ready to lift further restrictions. I do think that this is a great measure that has been put in place and make the prospect of going to college feel a lot safer.
Over the past year, COVID-19 has affected me in many different ways. One of the biggest ways the virus impacted me was my final school results. During the first lockdown, I was in my last year of high school. Due to the circumstances, we were unable to complete our remaining time there, or even take our final exams. In the end, we were given our results based on what our teachers had forecast for us.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get the results I needed to get onto the college course that I wanted. By the time I started college, they had been reopened and attendance was possible. Once the third lockdown started, however, it was back to learning from home once more. This certainly affected the course that I was taking due to there being a large practical segment that simply had to be put on hold.
Working from home
Recently I spoke to a few members of my local community, to get their personal thoughts and feelings on how COVID-19 has impacted them over the last year.
Local resident Helen Davies has been working from home since the first lockdown in March 2020, and said the shift was difficult at first.
She said: “Initially [working from home] was really hard as I am a people person and being in Sales, my job is all about building relationships.
“Having said that, I manage my time far more efficiently and am able to conduct multiple Zoom meetings in one day rather than only doing say three or four meetings, as most of my time was spent driving between appointments.
“My work/life balance is now much improved and even get the chance to go out for a walk during the day.”
Helen noted that one of the biggest changes for her was how little she had been driving, and that she’s had the opportunity to spend more quality time with loved ones while at home.
She added: “It has just become a normal way of working now and I certainly do not want to go back on the road.
“I am very lucky that I can fully function/do my job from home. I have a dedicated workspace which helps my concentration.”
Despite the better work/life balance, Helen did note that she was looking forward to socialising once more after the lockdown is lifted, but said that it will likely be on a smaller scale.
“I really do think that a lot more socialising will consist of gathering in smaller groups though and at people’s homes.”
Running a business during a pandemic
Gary Cook is the owner of GCHQ Hair Designers in Holmfirth. As Hairdressers are among the businesses forced to close every time there is a lockdown, it’s been a series of ups and downs for Gary over the past year.
He said: “This [lockdown] was the third time we have had to close due to COVID-19 and government restrictions.
“We always thought another lockdown was inevitable as the UK infection levels were rising sharply after lockdown’s one and two.”
Even when the UK hasn’t been in lockdown, it’s been important to put safety measures in place and limit the number of people inside business premises.
For Gary and GCHQ, that has meant making sure the staff has regular temperature checks, enabling Track & Trace through the NHS app, taking all clients through appointment only, and make sure shift patterns don’t allow too many staff members in at one time.
Alongside the difficulty of running a business, Gary’s daughter has also had to adjust.
He said: “We were extremely fortunate that we had been given a place at school, so we did not have to home school. On the occasions that we did home school, it was great that the actual teacher of our daughter was on zoom and the work set by the school was not that difficult.”
Like most of us, Gary is looking forward to a return of some sense of normalcy.
He added: “We are looking forward to being able to see family and friends, going to restaurants and Theatres, concerts and to be able to go abroad again!”