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Coronavirus

A year of everyday pandemic experiences shared in University’s new digital archive

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An online digital archive containing material documenting hundreds of people’s experiences of Covid-19 will be launched at Swansea University on March 23 – the anniversary of the first UK lockdown. 

More than 700 first-hand accounts – ranging from handwritten notebooks, diaries and dream logs to videos, social media posts, Tik Toks, music playlists and even a cross-stitch sampler – chronicle the 12 months of the pandemic.

The CoronaDiaries project is led by Dr Michael Ward, senior lecturer in social science at Swansea University. A team of student volunteers is now assisting him to prepare the documents for public viewing in an online digital archive, which will be supported by a physical collection held at the University’s Richard Burton Archives.

He said: “This was originally devised as a reactive sociological study to an unprecedented event as societies across the globe sought to adapt.

“Over the past 12 months, CoronaDiaries has been recording people’s everyday experiences of the pandemic in the same way that the Mass Observation Studies did before, during and after the Second World War.”

The project has a total of 182 participants, from 14 different counties, aged from 11 to 89.

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Their accounts of catching and surviving Covid, losing loved ones and the loneliness and isolation are highly moving with rich descriptions of a changing world.

They also show how quickly people adapted to the crisis with submissions documenting key events such as panic buying, the NHS clap, and the ongoing waves of the virus.

Dr Ward said: “The entries reveal a change in lifestyles brought about by the pandemic, the rupturing’s of family life, the changes to work practices, the boredom and surrealness of lockdowns and confinement and the changes to social and home life.

“Many people are no longer working from home, but living at work.

“The diaries show a continued anger and erosion of trust in politicians and how much loss is prevalent, both personally and in wider society. It certainly appears that those on the lowest incomes and those who could not work from home, have suffered disproportionately.”

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Eve, a 19-year-old who works in a care home, wrote: “It felt like the nation, along with the rest of the world, was cast in a dystopian film. The police were akin to George Orwell’s Party members. It became part of their duty to pull cars and question the purpose of the driver.”

However, Dr Ward says the diaries also contain hope and humour, with contributors responding to the pandemic in creative and imaginative ways and with new interests and online interactions leading to a different kind of social life.

The participants said recording their experiences had been cathartic and had helped them to process the changes that had taken place.

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Dr Ward added: “We want this collection to stand as a testimony to a changing and troubled time. We also hope that a series of books will follow.”

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The CoronaDiaries team at Swansea University includes Eve Moriarty, a digital humanities co-ordinator and a group of student volunteers include Ellie Griffiths, Nahomi Witt-Calvas, Sana Afreen, Angeliki Glarou, Stella-Rae Hicks, Ciaran Barry, Holly Beardshall, Maisie Godden, Georgia Molliex.

The students helping with the project have been drawn from a range of degree backgrounds and have been responsible for anonymising the accounts and analysing the massive amount of first-hand data and preparing them for the digital archive.


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Coronavirus

Face coverings retained in health and social care settings

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will remain in place.

Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.

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But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.

The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.

These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.

“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.

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“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.

“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”

The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.

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Coronavirus

Schools’ Covid guidance aligned to businesses and other workplaces

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced that Covid-19 measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations.

The Welsh Government has written to schools in Wales this morning to inform them of the changes.

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Since September last year, schools have applied measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus according to local circumstances, based on the Local Covid-19 infection control decision framework for schools. Schools will no longer be advised to use the framework.

The change is in line with the Welsh Government’s long-term Covid-19 transition from pandemic to endemic. The risk from coronavirus is now considered in the same context as other communicable diseases, such as flu.

The First Minister has announced that the remaining coronavirus restrictions will be removed from 9 May, if the public health situation remained stable. The changes to the guidance for schools will also come into effect from 9 May.

Schools and other education settings will continue to be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisors to ensure that measures remain appropriate and proportionate and reflect local risks and circumstances.

A checklist will be provided to support schools and settings in considering which control measures remain proportionate. Special schools will continue to follow the advice for children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.

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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing, Jeremy Miles said: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic. This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.

“We all know that Covid-19 has not gone way. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”

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Coronavirus

Health board extends shuttle bus between Llanelli and COVID vaccination centre

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Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi, will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week – with no service at 12.00pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

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People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court.

The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On 21 February 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

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Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service, including wearing face coverings unless medically exempt.

A maximum of 14 passengers are allowed per journey with a screen in place between driver and passengers.

The health board say that passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day.

They add that before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, people should check the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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