Four stories that touched the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic
Written by on 31 December 2020
As a strange year draws to a close, Sky News has re-visited four people whose stories touched the nation in very different ways.
From the father who spent a month in a warehouse, to the anti-racism campaigner who carried a rival protester to safety, an unimaginable 12 months brought out the best in people, here are some of 2020’s most extraordinary stories:
For three months a 50,000 sq ft depot in Lincolnshire became Richard Humphrey’s home.
He left his family for more than a month to sleep, eat and work in the warehouse so it could stay open during the first wave of the pandemic.
Mr Humphrey was one of 25 volunteers sleeping in the warehouse, he says he did “what needed to be done” to ensure three million meals could be delivered to those most in need.
He said: “They were big sacrifices, but even though it was challenging it was a time that was really exciting for us as well. To have that kind of provision at a time when our country needed it, for us there was no other choice.”
The volunteers at Christian charity His Church were working with 3,000 organisations, including synagogues and mosques, around the country to deliver essentials. Mr Humphrey says he feels “humbled” to have been part of a multi-faith effort to help people during the pandemic.
He said: “So many people have been made vulnerable by COVID, because they can’t get out, elderly people who don’t have the skills to shop online, children who were getting a free school meal but couldn’t get one anymore, there are so many people with financial problems too.
“As I reflect I think wow what an incredible year, but we’re still in a position now to help during the next lockdown and what’s to come.”
As the pandemic continued to change all our lives, social unrest was spreading too.
The killing of George Floyd in America sparked a global movement and at the height of anti-racism protests in London, an extraordinary photo was taken of Patrick Hutchinson.
The grandfather says he was acting on “instinct” when he was pictured carrying an injured counter-protester to safety. Speaking at the spot where the photo was taken he says: “I’ve been back so many times now for interviews, it feels like a home from home.”
Dozens were injured during the violent clashes, which involved several hundred anti-racism protesters and rival demonstrators.
Mr Hutchinson says he was trying to diffuse violence on the day; he says the photo, which was shared around the world, changed his life forever.
He said: “I think it does show unity, and a symbol of hope for us as humans. There’s only one race and that’s the human race and we need to all live by that standard and I feel like that picture embodies that.”
Since the famous photo, Mr Hutchinson has started an initiative that aims to give a platform to marginalised groups.
He believes many are yet to accept the level of systemic racism and unconscious bias in society, but hopes “2021 will be the year we see a lot more change”.
NHS consultant Perpetual Uke says it was a “miracle” she safely delivered twins when she was in a coma with COVID-19.
She was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in March with flu-like symptoms and ended up on a ventilator in an induced coma. Her babies were born at just 26 weeks by caesarean section.
When Mrs Uke woke from the coma she says she felt disorientated and thought she had lost her babies.
She said: “They just looked so tiny, it was horrifying.”
Palmer, a girl, and Pascal, a boy, were born weighing only 770g and 850g. Mrs Uke was unable to walk for three weeks when she left hospital.
We first met her in November, a month later she says: “I’ve noticed my strength getting better as the days have gone by.
“Having all of us alive, after the unprecedented emotional rollercoaster we all went through, I just couldn’t imagine seeing every one of us together at Christmas.”
When Annemarie Plas asked friends on social media to clap for carers, she never imagined what would happen next.
In the coming weeks, millions, including the prime minister and members of the Royal Family, gathered in their gardens, balconies and on street corners to join the weekly applause. A small tribute became a national ritual and a symbol of hope.
Mrs Plas, a Dutch national living in south London, says she was “overwhelmed” by the support and the impact of what she started “still hasn’t sunk in”.
She said: “The first week, I just remember the wave of sound coming from the street behind us, at that moment I think we knew it was going to be really special.”
Mrs Plas hopes clap for carers will return for one day this March to mark a year since the COVID-19 outbreak.
She said: “They go out on the frontline, they put their life in danger, everyone who helped keep our life going: the bin collector, the mailmen, everyone, so we could safely stay in. I think it’s important that we acknowledge that.”