Leading figures from across Lancashire are urging people to remain alert to the dangers of Covid-19, as the county prepares to fall silent to remember all those who have died as a result of coronavirus.
Tuesday, March 23, marks the one-year anniversary of when England first went into lockdown in response to the pandemic.
Since then, Covid-19 has led to the deaths of more than 4,000 people in Lancashire.
At midday on Tuesday, a host of organisations throughout the Lancashire Resilience Forum – the multi-agency partnership that has led Lancashire’s Covid response – will observe a minute’s silence in honour of those who have died and to reflect on the challenges we have overcome during these dark times.
Then at 8pm, residents will be encouraged to stand outside with a light – a candle, a torch or even your phone – to remember someone who’s died and to show your support to the bereaved. Alternatively, residents can shine a light in your window for the world to see.
In Lancashire, several landmarks will also be lit up yellow in memory of all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
County Hall in Preston, home of Lancashire County Council, will be lit up, while its flag will be flying at half-mast.
The National Day of Reflection has been initiated by end of life charity Marie Curie.
Angie Ridgwell, chair of the Lancashire Resilience Forum and chief executive of Lancashire County Council, has paid tribute to the many people who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
She is also reminding people to not let complacency creep in, as we enter a critical point in the pandemic.
“The pandemic has brought a lot of things into perspective,” Angie said.
“For many, we have learned to really make the most of the time we have with our loved ones, be it on Zoom, Facetime, the phone, or other creative and safe ways we have found. So many people have been taken from us far too soon and my thoughts are with everyone who has been affected.
“Many sacrifices have been made by the people of Lancashire to prevent even more people falling victim to coronavirus, and for that, I want to say thank you.
“I also want to implore people not to let your guard down now.
“As the lockdown eases and we begin returning to some form of normality, we must remember that there are still risks, especially from new variants.
“Please embrace the new freedoms and remain vigilant – the mantra of hands, face, space will remain a vital tool to help keep the virus at bay.
“Covid will likely stay with us for some time, but please hold on that community spirit, and remember, there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council, has insisted there is much hope that people can soon return to doing the things they love.
But he has warned that the pandemic is now shifting to people of working age – many of whom have yet to be vaccinated – so we must all continue to play our part.
“The past 12 months has really been a momentous year,” Sakthi said.
“My heart goes out to all those who have lost their loved ones, and to those who have suffered because of Covid.
“We are emerging out of this pandemic, and there are many signals of hope.
“Case numbers are coming down, but what we are seeing is a shift towards people of working age, people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, many of whom have not had their vaccinations.
“We are at a crucial point in the pandemic, as we look to the future, which is why we must remain alert to the risks of a virus that remains around us.
“That means we must continue to follow hands, face, space, and any other guidance, getting tested regularly. it is also vital that you get the vaccine when it’s your turn.
“By doing these things and by remaining alert, we can, with great optimism, look forward to the future and look forward to doing the things we love, once again.”