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Manchester reflects one year on from first national lockdown

'Each one of us has a story to tell about this pandemic'

One year ago, the lives of thousands of Mancunians changed overnight – and for many, normality has still not returned

Many are still working at home or have had to adapt to a world where social distancing is the norm.

Children have only recently returned to their classrooms, and swathes of businesses still have their doors closed to the public. 

On Tuesday 23rd March, Manchester City Council will mark this anniversary by flying the town’s flag at the Manchester Central Library at half mast.

In the evening the Library will also be illuminated yellow, the colour chosen to mark the national day of reflection. 

Throughout the day the council’s social media feeds will be dedicated to reflecting on the events of the past year, paying tribute to ordinary Mancunians who have persevered through extraordinary circumstances. 

One year ago, during the closing weeks of March 2020, the council began to put in place the initial elements of what would grow into one of the largest public relief packages the city had ever seen. 

Support from across the public, private and third sector was mobilised to help thousands of Mancunians put at risk due to the complete shuttering of the economy, and society at large. 

Over the course of the last year, Manchester Council and its partners have supported more than 230,000 people through their Food Response service, making more than 111,000 food deliveries.

They’ve taken close to 30,000 calls to their response hub, a dedicated team which was set up in the first weeks of the pandemic to ensure people had access to food, medicine, help paying bills or simply having someone to talk to in a bid to combat loneliness. 

More than 3,000 laptops have been sent to schools across the city, more than 5,000 sensory bags sent to children and 7,000 books sent to pupils in Year 6. 

Because of the pandemic, the country was also exposed to a painful reality that too many children and their families have to endure – that of food poverty

Spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford, a campaign to ensure that no child went hungry was launched, seeing 112,000 vouchers issued by the council to families over the school holidays, supporting one third of the city’s youngsters.

An additional 38,000 children will be supported with vouchers throughout the Easter Holidays, too. 

As well as its impact on ordinary people, the pandemic has been devastating for the city’s economy.

The combination of national lockdowns, as well as the tier-based local lockdowns have created an incredibly uncertain set of circumstances for business owners. 

In total, 24,365 payments have been made to businesses through the business grant scheme.

Close to £1m (£979,123) has been allocated through grant applications made to the We Love MCR Charity’s COVID Community Response Fund, and £2.6m has been invested into 71 organisations through the Our Manchester Community Voluntary Sector Development Fund. 

The council has also spoken about how we plan to remember the lives which have tragically been lost due to the pandemic.

Last week the sombre milestone of 1,000 COVID-related deaths was passed in Manchester. 

To serve as a permanent memorial, oak trees have been planted across the city’s cemeteries.

In the decades to come they will grow and offer all Mancunians a place of quiet contemplation for the family, friends and colleagues who are no longer with us.

“The events of the past year have been unparalleled,” said Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council.

“The impact of the pandemic which some thought would last for mere months is being felt a year on, and will continue to be felt for years to come. 

“Rebuilding lives and livelihoods will take time, but, what we are able to do today is reflect on the immense efforts made by every single person in Manchester to keep one another safe and supported.

“We have a roadmap out of the situation we are living in and I want to assure every citizen of this great city that help will be there for them in the months ahead of us.

“I am proud of what Manchester has achieved in the face of such adversity, and as a council we will continue to support anyone in need, and make sure no one is left behind.”

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing, said: “Each one of us has a story to tell about this pandemic. I know that in the years to come so many of us will be able to look back with pride on how we responded during one of the worse crises ever to impact Manchester. 

“Although there are some signs for optimism as the vaccine roll out continues, we must remember that we are still in the grip of the pandemic and that steps still have to be taken to ensure the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and the city we live in. 

“By limiting the further spread of the virus we will allow our local healthcare teams to continue vaccinating as many people as possible, allowing us to one day return to life as normal.”

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