One year on: What has happened since Ipswich's first coronavirus case?
- Credit: Archant
One year ago today, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Ipswich. Since then, almost 300 people from the town have lost their lives.
The confirmed case came as concern over the virus continued to grow among the population, with cases in Essex and East Suffolk having already been made public.
What has happened since last year?
With the testing system then operating at a smaller scale, the virus continued to spread – to the point that three national lockdowns later, 7,199 people in the town have contracted the virus. Of those, 297 have died.
The chief executive of Ipswich Hospital made repeated pleas to the public to follow the rules and stay safe, all while doors in Ipswich town centre closed – some of them for good.
Among some of the biggest commercial casualties include the Debenhams store, which will reopen for a final closing down sale next month before closing for good. Others include Lakeland, Office and the Little Waitrose shop.
It was a similar situation across the county, where as a whole, 28,819 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and 1,370 people have died.
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David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said his heart goes out to all who have lost loved ones.
He said: “The past year has been difficult for everyone. Most of us know someone who has lost their life to coronavirus or been badly affected by it.
“Our lives have changed and we have got used to things that a year ago would not have seemed possible.
“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to help us get through this, not least our NHS, police and council staff and the army of volunteers who provided help and support to vulnerable people."
Matthew Hicks, the leader of Suffolk County Council and chair of the Suffolk Outbreak Engagement Board, said: “This has been a year of incredible upheaval in which many of us have lost friends, family and neighbours to this dreadful virus.
"Also, whilst many businesses have adapted, lots have suffered themselves and, inevitably, people have lost their livelihoods.
“Despite all these the challenges the people of Suffolk have been magnificent in their response – the voluntary and community sector, businesses, local authorities at every level and the wider public sector – and, of course, the NHS."
There is hope on the horizon, however. Infection rates are decreasing – the country is on a roadmap out of lockdown – and doctors, nurses and volunteers alike have worked hard to see Suffolk and north Essex rank as the second highest area in England for vaccinations.
Mr Ellesmere said the town must "learn the mistakes" of its past and build back stronger.
He said: “The government’s roadmap for easing restrictions gives us hope that there is now light at the end of the tunnel but there is still a long way to go and we all need to continue to follow the rules so we can safely get back to the things and people we love.
“We will build back as a town and a country but we must build back stronger, learning from the mistakes of the past.
“Coronavirus has not affected everyone equally and those who already had least are those who have suffered most. The fundamental lesson we need to learn is that our society is only as strong as its weakest member.”
Mr Hicks added: “Thankfully the end is now in sight. The vaccination programme continues while rapid testing centres are now open across Suffolk to help detect and prevent the spread of the virus.
“The future will certainly involve much work focused on Covid-19 to ensure Suffolk recovers from the social and economic impact.
"In the meantime we must continue to adhere to the rules about maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks and washing hands as we transition through the government’s roadmap towards a return to normal.”