10 Aug 2022

IN PICTURES: A Derry man's reflection on his beloved city the day after new Covid restrictions were introduced

On Saturday morning, Derry man Brendan McKeever took a walk through the city centre. It was the morning after the introduction of new Covid restrictions.

Two weeks before Halloween and you would expect Derry to be buzzing.

Mothers, fathers, children, young ones, and many of the not so young trawling through the shops to get that magic costume that would set them apart.

Looking forward to one of the biggest annual events in Derry where everyone seemed to become alive, where not having a costume meant you were the odd one.

But that was previous years, not 2020.

The town would also usually be busy as many preparing to go out would be at the hairdressers, the nail bar or beautician and if there had been a few weddings planned for later in the day, you would be lucky to get an appointment at all.

Others just out getting new clothes for later in the evening, maybe a pub or restaurant visit. But this is 2020.

This was the morning after as I walked through the town.

The morning after restrictions were imposed on the population of Northern Ireland as Covid-19 was taking hold.

Already in Derry we had faced some restrictions for a short while but these were even more stringent.

But on Friday 16th October all changed yet again.

Maybe we had relaxed, let our guard down in the previous months, or maybe some of us just got fed up.

But whatever on Saturday 17th October, Derry and many other places in Northern Ireland were facing a different picture.

And what was even more alarming was Derry had the highest infection rate for Covid-19, not only in Northern Ireland, nor even Ireland but in the UK.

Whatever the reason or reasons, whatever the statistics, number, curves on a graph, we, our relatives and friends were now most in danger and it was becoming very scary.

I walked through the city streets where little or no traffic flowed on that Saturday morning where in the past years it did.

I noticed few walkers, runners and believe it or not no cyclists, prams or wheelchairs, out town seemed deserted.

It was eerie, empty street after empty street.

Hairdressers, beauticians, nail bars and bars all shut down and many wondering if they would ever open again after the four-week restriction.

Some cafes open for carry outs but not too many queues at these.

Our town seemed devastated that morning.

The only thing that seemed to be flowing was the pollution on the River Foyle.

It is hard, very hard on those who have lost the battle to Covid-19 or who have been long term impacted by this virus, and their families.

For those who lost or have lost their jobs through its impact, life will be very difficult in the days ahead.

All those too emotionally hurt by the restrictions around funerals and wakes have to carry a heavy load.

And lives and plans have been interrupted as weddings, birthdays and special occasions have had to be curtailed.

Our town may be down, or as someone put it 'on our knees'.

It is certainly devastated.

But although Covid-19 is relatively new, we have been here before over other pressures and somehow we not only survived but flourished.

Derry is made up of very many genuine, caring people and we will get through this.

But never should we forget those who have suffered the most, we owe it to them to try our best.

It is only the morning after, we still have tomorrow.

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