SOME Gwent residents who have experienced particularly challenging times during the coronavirus pandemic have shared their stories with the Argus, and appealed for people to follow new restrictions.

On Monday first minister Mark Drakeford announced that Wales will be heading for a national two-week ‘fire-break’ lockdown from this coming Friday, October 23.

He said if the measures do not result in a significant decrease in cases, there could be longer and equally strict restrictions afterwards.

Many people across Gwent have struggled to cope with the impact of lockdown, and some who have had particularly difficult experiences have chosen to share their stories.

Sarah Evans, Newbridge

Sarah Evans and her family - husband Scott and sons Harrison, seven, and Finley, three, have been isolating since early March due to Harrison suffering from Williams syndrome - a rare developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body including the immune system. She says if Harrison got coronavirus, he would very likely not recover.

“It’s impacted our schedules unbelievably,” she said. “We have to sanitise everything - money, food, door handles. It can add hours onto your day.”

Ms Evans says she is anxious about Harrison contracting the virus, about their home farm shop business, and about her husband’s furniture company.

She also has concerns around her youngest son being scared to go outdoors.

South Wales Argus:

Sarah and Scott with sons Finley (left) and Harrison. Picture: Chris Tinsley

“Our solace used to be going to have a cup of tea in Sainsbury’s and speak to the staff, who we became very friendly with,” she recalled. “We haven’t done that since February.”

During the first lockdown Ms Evans’ father died in a care home.

Due to restrictions she was unable to see him at the home until his death in May, aged 87.

She has also been unable to see her mother since March due to her cancer treatment making her vulnerable.

“We just have to take it day by day,” Ms Evans added. “We’d have loved to have done Christmas with the family but that’s not going to be possible. We don’t let ourselves look too far ahead.”

At the start of the pandemic Ms Evans was behind a national effort to get Wales singing in unison in a show of solidarity, but she says she is seeing that community spirit drift away.

“I’d just like people to realise what impact this virus is having on so many families. I agree with the circuit-breaker lockdown, but it needs to be adhered to properly to work.

“I see so many comments online now about how people will ‘do as they like’ regardless of the restrictions. We’ve become so divided."


John Keysell, Monmouth

Reverend John Keysell contracted coronavirus at the end of March, and is one of many now suffering with a wide range of symptoms being dubbed ‘long Covid’.

An asthmatic who has been on steroid medications to try to get better, he said in May he got to one of his lowest points mentally in his life, and has attributed his recent improvement to wife Viv.

“She has got me through. It’s been an extremely lonely time and a confusing time," he said.

“I’ve had more than 20 different symptoms, from blisters to a white and swollen tongue.

“The worst part has been waking up in the morning and not knowing what symptoms are going to be in store.

“I still suffer from breathlessness and fatigue. Another symptom for me has been brain fog; this morning [Monday] I wrote out a cheque for ‘£60 and five pounds’, because I’m not thinking straight.

“I’m not a particularly emotional man, but I’ve found myself in tears very often.

South Wales Argus:

Reverend John Keysell. Picture: Johnny Hathaway

“I just have to plan properly, and not put too much pressure on myself. Sometimes I can’t function, and I have to accept that now. That’s what coronavirus has done to me.”

Reverend Keysell lives right on the border, and does some work in England too. He says he agrees with the circuit-breaker lockdown, but wants the same thing implemented in England at the same time.

“I hope we don’t get in a position where Wales is open in a few weeks’ time and England is shut,” he added.

One of the worst parts of lockdown, he says, is the loneliness that he and Viv have experienced.

"It is a horrible feeling, and it’s important for us that doesn’t turn into the norm, or a fear of being outside.

“We’re very conscious of that - we’re out and about as much as we can be, we try and eat healthily and live a healthy lifestyle.

“You have to try and be resilient. I’m very fortunate Viv is on at me all the time to pick myself up again. I’d be lost without her.”

Katie Solomon, Newport

Katie Solomon, who has been isolating alone since March due to suffering with polycythaemia vera (a type of blood cancer) and type 2 diabetes, says she believes the circuit-breaker lockdown is the right move, but is concerned about what might come after that.

“I’ve seen three friends face to face since March, so it’s not been an easy time and I have been depressed at some points,” she said.

“I’ll never take a simple hug for granted again. When I’m alone at home I tend to sometimes dwell on negative things for too long.

“My worry is that I will not be able to return to work or even to see my friends until there is a vaccine. It’s the unknown that is the worst part.

South Wales Argus:

Katie Solomon

“If I had to start shielding properly again I’d be worried for my mental health, but there are some positives.

“During the last lockdown I struggled to get food deliveries due to the mix-up over supermarket priority slots, but this time around I am being prioritised, which puts my mind at ease.

“It’s frustrating because I had started to make small steps to get back to normal life, and it feels at the moment like almost going back to square one.

“I’m trying to stay calm and not let it rule my life. I don’t disinfect everything anymore, and I’m trying to remember there are other things to life than coronavirus.

“But I can’t help but think this will change our lives forever.”