Call for permanent Covid memorial after city death toll hits 250

Covid memorial at Norwich Cathedral in January 2021, when the number of deaths across Norfolk from t

Crosses on the floor in Norwich Cathedral in 2021 representing victims of Covid - Credit: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral

Calls are growing to build a permanent memorial to help heal families' pain and remember the 250 lives lost so far to Covid in the city.

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, 2,243 people with the disease have died across Norfolk and 250 in Norwich, according to government data.

City folk pulled together to get through the pandemic and many continue to support those whose loved ones died with Covid or are living with the long-term effects.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: Antony Kelly

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Photo: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: "The House of Commons is across the River Thames from a famous wall where the people who have lost loved ones to Covid can remember them by writing their names on the wall.

"Every time I walk past that it is deeply moving and shows clearly the scale of a tragedy which could have been avoided. 

“I support having a memorial to the victims of Covid in our city and I would like its form to be shaped by the wishes of loved ones and of course the hundreds of people living with long Covid. 

“But that isn’t the end of the story. Such a memorial cannot be used as a full stop of the epidemic that is blistering the lives of millions of people across the world."

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He criticised Boris Johnson's plans to lift the rules meaning people with coronavirus have to self-isolate later this month, earlier than expected.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus. Picture: Pipp

Prime minister Boris Johnson - Credit: PA

Mr Lewis claimed the rule change was based on "political calculations to try and save his skin".

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Neil Didsbury.

But Chloe Smith, Norwich North Conservative MP, said: “The two years of the pandemic have been very difficult and most of all for those who have lost loved ones to the pandemic.

"My thoughts are with these families in Norwich and I hope it would be comforting to them to know the community marks their deaths too.

"As a city or in our parishes we could remember by lighting public buildings, holding a moment of silence, planting trees and much more and I think it is very important that these things are done by drawing on the public's ideas.

"Nationally I think it will be valuable to commemorate what we've been through by respecting loss, remembering sacrifice and courage, but also celebrating innovation and the strength of kindness and spirit that came out."

Ms Smith added: "I believe it is time to move forward and I think many will welcome lifting the remaining laws to do with Covid.

"I'll be scrutinising the Coronavirus Act and regulations closely."

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia. Picture: UEA - Credit: UEA

Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's School of Medicine, added: "A memorial is something we have got to work out in terms of how we help people recover from the impacts through bereavement and hardships.

"A lot of health care workers are exhausted."

He believed isolation rules should be dropped in the spring when viruses tend to spread less.

He said: "At some point we have got to do it. The concern I have is for our vulnerable people. We have to think how we protect them when they are out either by wearing correct masks, early diagnosis and getting antivirals to them.

"But a lot of us will get reinfected with it every few years through our lives."

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at Quadram Institute in Norwich

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at Quadram Institute in Norwich - Credit: Dr Andrew Page

Dr Andrew Page, head of informatics at Norwich's Quadram Institute, also believed now was a good time to drop Covid rules because vaccination rates were high and cases of hospitalisation and serious illness from Covid were reducing.

"We are past the worst of it," he said.

The very reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich.

The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, Dean of Norwich. - Credit: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, said Norwich Cathedral staff were talking about a permanent memorial in the historic landmark.

She said: "Everybody across the city pulled together. We are aware people who lost loved ones have been torn apart by Covid."

Covid memorial at Norwich Cathedral in January 2021, when the number of deaths across Norfolk from t

Crosses on the floor in Norwich Cathedral in 2021 representing victims of Covid - Credit: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral

A temporary display of wooden crosses representing people from Norfolk who died with Covid was on show in the cathedral in 2020 until last year.

The dean was keen to work with other organisations in the city to help people "heal and recapture their wellbeing".