One year on: Essex marks anniversary of first coronavirus case

Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a PCP Covid-19 test kit during a visit to SureScreen Diagnostics

It has now been a year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in Essex. - Credit: PA

One year ago today, Professor Chris Whitty confirmed a case of coronavirus in Essex - and now more than 3,770 people locally have died. 

The county became headline news as it became one of the first places in the UK to record a case of the deadly virus on March 1 last year, with the person being one of 12 new cases identified across the country.

At the time, only 33 cases had been confirmed nationwide.

Within weeks, the virus had spread and the news of the first deaths at our hospitals were announced.

Colchester Hospital confirmed the first deaths of two patients, both in their 80s on March 25.

The number of Covid cases recorded in Essex now stands at 109,776, while the unitary authorities in Southend and Thurrock have recorded 14,286 and 17,380 cases respectively.

In terms of deaths, the area governed by Essex County Council has seen 3,779 people die of coronavirus-related causes, while the unitary authorities in Southend and Thurrock have recorded 570 and 445 deaths respectively.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, Sam Glover, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said it has been "a year of extremes". 

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"The pandemic has been a very difficult time for many people across Essex," she said.

"We’ve seen the impact of loss of life and health, loss of jobs and businesses and the loss of so many freedoms that we often take for granted.

“At Healthwatch Essex we’ve remained focussed on understanding the experiences of those most adversely affected and finding ways to support them.  

"In particular, we’ve focussed on the challenges faced by people living with sensory impairment during the pandemic, as well as the mental health impact of such a prolonged period of lockdown.

"It is clear that isolation impacts upon people in different ways and, yet, we have seen communities rally around to support the most vulnerable in incredible ways."

Although she understands people are keen to move towards a lifting of lockdown following news of the government's "roadmap", Mrs Glover reiterated how important it is that we continue to follow the rules.

She said moving too quickly risks putting more lives at risk and more pressure on the NHS, which he described as working through the "most challenging circumstances seen in health and social care in our lifetime".

“It has been a year of extremes – we have seen the very best of human nature and rapid advances in medical science and treatment, alongside sobering statistics and the saddest of personal stories and experiences," Mrs Glover said.

"I believe it will take the whole country some time to recover from the pandemic - physically, emotionally and financially – and yet, if we look for it, there is some incredible learning about how we can work differently across health and social care in the future.”