The people of Wales have come together to mark the first anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic, in communities and events both large and small, as the Nation marked a year to the day since the Prime Minister first informed the people of the United Kingdom to stay at home.  Tuesday 23 March 2021 has been designated as a National Day of Reflection and a commemorative events took place across the principality.

Parliaments, hospitals, organisations and businesses were joined by residents displaying yellow hearts on their doors or in their windows as a national one-minute silence was held at 12 noon followed at 8pm by a nationwide ‘beacon of remembrance’ when communities throughout Wales took to their doorsteps and shone phones, candles and torches into the night sky.  Many locations held a second silence at 8pm.

Across Wales, 100 iconic Welsh landmarks including the Senedd, Gwyrch Castle, Britannia Bridge, Principality Stadium and numerous castles specially chosen to take part in the commemoration.

North Wales security and crowd management experts, Corvus Security, who assisted with security at the light up of many North Wales landmarks, said:

“We are proud to have supported the lighting up of a number of major North Wales sites in yellow… once again top job to all involved.  Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those lost to COVID-19.”

In Rhyl, the Sky Tower, 1891 Restaurant, Rhyl Pavilion Theatre, and beach shelters all turned yellow.

Jamie Groves, managing director of Denbighshire Leisure Ltd, told Rhyl Journal:

“So many families have been devastated by the loss of loved ones as a result of the pandemic.

“By lighting up our attractions on this difficult anniversary, we are sending out a message of condolence and of support to everyone across the whole of Wales, but particularly in Denbighshire, who has been affected by Covid 19.”

Meanwhile, in South Wales, the Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl, Bridgend County Borough was one of many sites across South Wales illuminated with yellow light to commemorate the lives lost – many communities found their own ways to remember.  Community leaders explained how different groups had chosen to commemorate the day with their own small  touching, heartfelt tributes.

Pyle Community Council, for example, marked the occasion with a ‘line’ of tags where people could share messages which blew gently in the breeze.  Many of the notes were truly touching.

Local Councillor Jane Gebbie, whose ward is Pyle, Bridgend, said:

“We’re very fortunate that we have an active Pyle Community Council and somewhere to celebrate all those lives brought to an end during COVID 19.   The experience of this pandemic will be one we all remember for the rest of our lives. For the challenges ahead, and they will be significant, we’re ready to take them on together as communities across the globe.”

Meanwhile, Rhondda Cynon Taff shared a big yellow heart on the hills made from tiny flags bearing the names of the locals they lost during the pandemic, an incredibly touching and deeply personal memorial.

Founder of Bridgend Coronavirus Support Group, Sarah Murphy, explained how the 11,000 strong community group (which has been very active in supporting local residents, care homes, charities and hospitals) had seen lots of touching tributes shared on the group this week – with lots of member support:

“We have had some very sad posts this week as people in our communities have lost loved ones.  We are honoured that people feel they can share their most personal and heart-breaking stories, and I continue to be blown away by the kindness and support we show each other.”

Bridgend County Borough Council Leader, Huw David, stressed the importance of local mental health support for those who may have been triggered by the occasion:

“Of the 125,000 people across the UK who have died as a result of coronavirus, more than 7,600 of those deaths have been in Wales.

“This anniversary will be an extremely difficult milestone for some, but no one should feel that they have to face it alone. A wide range of support is always available, and anyone in Bridgend who may be struggling can make use of local services designed to look after your well-being and mental health.

“Assisting Recovery in the Community (ARC) provides practical advice, guidance and structured support. Advice is available between 9am – 4.30pm, Monday to Friday – call 01656 763176 or email ARCInformationandAdvice@bridgend.gov.uk for more details.

“The Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations can point residents towards further support and information – visit www.bavo.org.uk/get-help/covid-19/ to find out more.”

Editor of News from Wales, Lisa Baker, praised the courage of NHS staff, including those at the Princess of Wales hospital in Bridgend, where she spent much of yesterday:

“It was really touching to see the staff at the hospital take a minute out of clinic to remember the people they had lost, both patients and staff at the hospital.  It’s easy to forget that every loss will have touched the staff throughout the hospital personally, but after observing the silence it was straight back to work as usual, their professionalism was incredible.

“I’d like to pay tribute to all the NHS workers across the UK who have saved many lives, including my cousin Rachel and daughter Amy who have worked tirelessly.  I’d also like to say a very special thank you to the nurses in Worcester Hospital who held my sister’s hand as she passed away in intensive care last June.  I am in awe of their commitment, their courage and their kindness.”

Cllr. Huw David went on to explain why it was important for Welsh residents to keep following the rules:

“To date, more than 65,000 local residents have been vaccinated. With the programme making excellent progress, our eyes are turning towards the future and how we and the rest of the country can recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“However, Coronavirus has not gone away, and we will be living with its effects for quite some time. That is why it remains absolutely crucial for communities to keep their guard up, ensure that we keep following the rules, and make every effort to prevent the coronavirus from making a resurgence.”

As Wales now looks to re-open we truly hope that the yellow lights will herald a brighter future for our wonderful communities which are truly the heart of our Nation.